Segment-specific associations of carotid intima-media thickness with cardiovascular risk factors: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study

Joseph F Polak, Sharina D Person, Gina S Wei, Ayleen Godreau, David R Jacobs, Anita Harrington, Stephen Sidney, Daniel H O'Leary
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 2010, 41 (1): 9-15

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: We propose to study possible differences in the associations between risk factors for cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction and stroke) and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) measurements made at 3 different levels of the carotid bifurcation.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of a cohort of whites and blacks of both genders with a mean age of 45 years. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors were determined in cohort members. Carotid IMT was measured from high-resolution B-mode ultrasound images at 3 levels: the common carotid artery, the carotid artery bulb (bulb), and the internal carotid artery. Associations with risk factors were evaluated by multivariate linear regression analyses.

RESULTS: Of 3258 who underwent carotid IMT measurements, common carotid artery, bulb, and internal carotid artery IMT were measured at all 3 separate levels in 3023 (92.7%). A large proportion of the variability of common carotid artery IMT was explained by cardiovascular risk factors (26.8%) but less so for the bulb (11.2%) and internal carotid artery (8.0%). Carotid IMT was consistently associated with age, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, smoking, and hypertension in all segments. Associations with fasting glucose and diastolic blood pressure were stronger for common carotid artery than for the other segments. Hypertension, diabetes, and current smoking had qualitatively stronger associations with bulb IMT and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol with internal carotid artery IMT.

CONCLUSIONS: In our cohort of relatively young white and black men and women, a greater proportion of the variability in common carotid IMT can be explained by traditional cardiovascular risk factors than for the carotid artery bulb and internal carotid arteries.

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