BACKGROUND: Noninvasive techniques to evaluate arterial stiffness include noninvasive radial artery pulse contour analysis. Diastolic pulse contour analysis provides a separate assessment of large (C1) and small artery (C2) elasticity. Analysis of the systolic pulse contour identifies two pressure peaks (P1 and P2) that relate to incident and reflected waves. This study aimed to compare indices from systolic and diastolic pulse contour analysis from the radial pressure waveform and to correlate these indices with traditional risk factors in asymptomatic individuals screened for cardiovascular disease. METHODS: In 298 consecutive subjects (206 male and 92 female healthy subjects with a mean age of 50 +/- 12 years), noninvasive radial artery pressure waveforms were acquired with a piezoelectric transducer and analyzed for 1) diastolic indices of C1 and C2 from the CR-2000 CVProfiler, and 2) systolic indices of augmentation as defined by augmentation pressure (AP), augmentation index (AIx), and systolic reflective index (SRI = P2/P1). These indices were then correlated to each other as well as to individual traditional risk factors and the Framingham Risk Score. RESULTS: Diastolic indices were significantly and inversely correlated to systolic indices with C2 showing a stronger inverse association than C1. C2 and Alx were significantly correlated with height, weight, and body mass index in men but not in women. All indices correlated better to blood pressure in women than men. In women, only systolic indices were significantly correlated to HDL cholesterol and only diastolic indices were significantly correlated to LDL cholesterol. All indices were significantly correlated to the Framingham Risk Score, which was stronger in women then men, but when adjusted for age only diastolic indices remained significant in women. CONCLUSIONS: Diastolic and systolic indices of pulse contour analysis correlate differently with traditional risk factors in men and women.