Differences in atherosclerosis according to area level socioeconomic deprivation: cross sectional, population based study

Kevin A Deans, Vladimir Bezlyak, Ian Ford, G David Batty, Harry Burns, Jonathan Cavanagh, Eric de Groot, Agnes McGinty, Keith Millar, Paul G Shiels, Carol Tannahill, Yoga N Velupillai, Naveed Sattar, Chris J Packard
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2009 October 27, 339: b4170

OBJECTIVES: To examine the relation between area level social deprivation and ultrasound markers of atherosclerosis (common carotid intima-media thickness and plaque score), and to determine whether any differences can be explained by "classic" (currently recognised) or "emerging" (novel) cardiovascular risk factors.

DESIGN: Cross sectional, population based study.

SETTING: NHS Greater Glasgow Health Board area.

PARTICIPANTS: 666 participants were selected on the basis of how their area ranked in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004. Approximately equal numbers of participants from the most deprived areas and the least deprived areas were included, as well as equal numbers of men and women and equal numbers of participants from each age group studied (35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 years).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Carotid intima-media thickness and plaque score, as detected by ultrasound.

RESULTS: The mean age and sex adjusted intima-media thickness was significantly higher in participants from the most deprived areas than in those from the least deprived areas (0.70 mm (standard deviation (SD) 0.16 mm) v 0.68 mm (SD 0.12 mm); P=0.015). On subgroup analysis, however, this difference was only apparent in the highest age tertile in men (56.3-66.5 years). The difference in unadjusted mean plaque score between participants from the most deprived and those from the least deprived areas was more striking than the difference in intima-media thickness (least deprived 1.0 (SD 1.5) v most deprived 1.7 (SD 2.0); P<0.0001). In addition, a significant difference in plaque score was apparent in the two highest age tertiles in men (46.8-56.2 years and 56.3-66.5 years; P=0.0073 and P<0.001) and the highest age tertile in women (56.3-66.5 years; P<0.001). The difference in intima-media thickness between most deprived and least deprived males remained significant after adjustment for classic risk factors, emerging risk factors, and individual level markers of socioeconomic status (P=0.010). Adjustment for classic risk factors and emerging cardiovascular risk factors, either alone or in combination, did not abolish the deprivation based difference in plaque presence (as a binary measure; adjusted odds ratio of 1.73, 95% confidence interval 1.07 to 2.82). However, adjustment for classic risk factors and individual level markers of early life socioeconomic status abolished the difference in plaque presence between the most deprived and the least deprived individuals (adjusted odds ratio 0.94, 95% CI 0.54 to 1.65; P=0.84).

CONCLUSIONS: Deprivation is associated with increased carotid plaque score and intima-media thickness. The association of deprivation with atherosclerosis is multifactorial and not adequately explained by classic or emerging risk factors.

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