Stroke remains a leading cause of death in the United States. While stroke-related mortality in the USA has declined over the past decades, stroke death rates are still higher for blacks than for whites, even at younger ages. The purpose of this study was to estimate the frequency of a lipid core and explore risk factors for its presence in asymptomatic, young-to-middle-aged urban African American adults recruited from inner-city Baltimore, Md., USA.
Between August 28, 2003, and May 26, 2005, 198 African American participants aged 30-44 years from inner-city Baltimore, Md., were enrolled in an observational study of subclinical atherosclerosis related to HIV and cocaine use. In addition to clinical examinations and laboratory tests, B-mode ultrasound for intima-media thickness of the internal carotid arteries was performed. Among these 198, 52 were selected from the top 30th percentile of maximum carotid intima-media thickness by ultrasound, and high-resolution black blood MRI images were acquired through their carotid plaque before and after the intravenous administration of gadodiamide. Of these 52, 37 with maximum segmental thickness by MRI >1.0 mm were included in this study. Lumen and outer wall contours were defined using semiautomated analysis software. The frequency of a lipid core in carotid plaque was estimated and risk factors for lipid core presence were explored using logistic regression analysis.
Of the 37 participants in this study, 12 (32.4%) were women. The mean age was 38.7 ± 4.9 years. A lipid core was present in 9 (17%) of the plaques. Seventy percent of the study participants had a history of cigarette smoking. The mean total cholesterol level was 176.1 ± 37.3 mg/dl, the mean systolic blood pressure was 113.1 ± 13.3 mm Hg, and the mean diastolic blood pressure was 78.9 ± 9.5 mm Hg. There were 5 participants with hypertension (13.5%). Twelve (32%) participants had a history of chronic cocaine use, and 23 (62%) were HIV positive. Among the factors investigated, including age, sex, blood pressure, cigarette smoking, C-reactive protein, fasting glucose, triglycerides, serum total cholesterol, coronary calcium, cocaine use, and HIV infection, only total cholesterol was significantly associated with the presence of a lipid core.
This study revealed an unexpectedly high rate of the presence of lipid core in carotid plaque and highlights the importance of cholesterol lowering to prevent cerebrovascular disease in this population. Further population-based studies are warranted to confirm these results.
Key Words: Carotid artery, Cholesterol, Lipid core, Risk factors, Stroke