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1.  Signs of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in relation to risk factor distribution in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
European Heart Journal  2008;29(22):2782-2791.
Modern imaging technology allows us the visualization of coronary artery calcification (CAC), a marker of subclinical coronary atherosclerosis. The prevalence, quantity, and risk factors for CAC were compared between two studies with similar imaging protocols but different source populations: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR).
Methods and results
The measured CAC in 2220 MESA participants were compared with those in 3126 HNR participants with the inclusion criteria such as age 45–75 years, Caucasian race, and free of baseline cardiovascular disease. Despite similar mean levels of CAC of 244.6 among participants in MESA and of 240.3 in HNR (P = 0.91), the prevalence of CAC > 0 was lower in MESA (52.6%) compared with HNR (67.0%) with a prevalence rate ratio of CAC > 0 of 0.78 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.72–0.85] after adjustment for known risk factors. Consequently, among participants with CAC > 0, the participants in MESA tended to have higher levels of CAC than those in HNR (ratio of CAC levels: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.19–1.63), since many HNR participants have small (near zero) CAC values.
The CAC prevalence was lower in the United States (MESA) cohort than in the German (HNR) cohort, which may be explained by more favourable risk factor levels among the MESA participants. The predictors for increased levels of CAC were, however, similar in both cohorts with the exception that male gender, blood pressure, and body mass index were more strongly associated in the HNR cohort.
PMCID: PMC2582985  PMID: 18845666
Epidemiology; Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery calcium; Risk factors; Screening
2.  Cardiovascular events with absent or minimal coronary calcification: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
American heart journal  2009;158(4):554-561.
Elevated coronary artery calcium (CAC) is a marker for increase risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). While the majority of CHD events occur among individuals with advanced CAC, CHD can also occur in individuals with little or no calcified plaque. In this study, we sought to evaluate the characteristics associated with incident CHD events in the setting of minimal (score ≤10) or absent CAC (score of zero).
Asymptomatic participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) (N=6,809), were followed for occurrence of all CHD events (including myocardial infarction(MI), angina, resuscitated cardiac arrest, or CHD death) and hard CHD events (MI or CHD death). Time to incident CHD was modeled using age-and gender-adjusted Cox regression.
The final study population consisted of 3,923 MESA asymptomatic participants (mean age: 58±9years,39% males) had with CAC scores of 0-10. Overall no detectable CAC was seen in 3415 individuals, whereas 508 had CAC scores of 1-10. During follow up (median 4.1 years) there were 16 incident hard events, and 28 all CHD events in individuals with absent or minimal CAC. In age, gender, race and CHD risk factors adjusted analysis, minimal CAC (1-10) was associated with an estimated 3-fold greater risk of a hard CHD event (HR: 3.23, 95% CI: 1.17-8.95), or of all CHD event (HR: 3.66, 95% CI 1.71-7.85) compared to those with CAC=0. Former smoking (HR=3.57; 1.08-11.77), current smoking (HR=4.93; 1.20-20.30), and diabetes (HR=3.09; 1.07-8.93) were significant risk factors for events in those with CAC=0.
Asymptomatic persons with absent or minimal CAC are at very low risk of future cardiovascular events. Individuals with minimal CAC (1-10) were significantly increased to three fold increased risk for incident CHD events relative to those with CAC scores of zero.
PMCID: PMC2766514  PMID: 19781414
Computed Tomography; Prognosis; Coronary Artery Calcification; Atherosclerosis; Coronary Calcium Score; Cardiac Events
3.  An alternative method for quantifying coronary artery calcification: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA) 
BMC Medical Imaging  2012;12:14.
Extent of atherosclerosis measured by amount of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in computed tomography (CT) has been traditionally assessed using thresholded scoring methods, such as the Agatston score (AS). These thresholded scores have value in clinical prediction, but important information might exist below the threshold, which would have important advantages for understanding genetic, environmental, and other risk factors in atherosclerosis. We developed a semi-automated threshold-free scoring method, the spatially weighted calcium score (SWCS) for CAC in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Chest CT scans were obtained from 6814 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The SWCS and the AS were calculated for each of the scans. Cox proportional hazards models and linear regression models were used to evaluate the associations of the scores with CHD events and CHD risk factors. CHD risk factors were summarized using a linear predictor.
Among all participants and participants with AS > 0, the SWCS and AS both showed similar strongly significant associations with CHD events (hazard ratios, 1.23 and 1.19 per doubling of SWCS and AS; 95% CI, 1.16 to 1.30 and 1.14 to 1.26) and CHD risk factors (slopes, 0.178 and 0.164; 95% CI, 0.162 to 0.195 and 0.149 to 0.179). Even among participants with AS = 0, an increase in the SWCS was still significantly associated with established CHD risk factors (slope, 0.181; 95% CI, 0.138 to 0.224). The SWCS appeared to be predictive of CHD events even in participants with AS = 0, though those events were rare as expected.
The SWCS provides a valid, continuous measure of CAC suitable for quantifying the extent of atherosclerosis without a threshold, which will be useful for examining novel genetic and environmental risk factors for atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3443418  PMID: 22747658
4.  Distribution of Coronary Artery Calcium Scores by Framingham 10-Year Risk Strata in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA): Potential Implications for Coronary Risk Assessment 
By examining the distribution of CAC across FRS strata in a large, multi-ethnic, community-based sample of men and women, we sought to determine if lower risk persons could potentially benefit from CAC screening.
The 10-year Framingham risk scores (FRS) and coronary artery calcium (CAC) are predictors of coronary heart disease (CHD). CAC ≥300 is associated with the highest risk for CHD even in low risk (FRS <10%) persons; however expert groups have suggested CAC screening only in intermediate risk (FRS 10–20%) groups.
We included 5660 MESA participants. The number needed to screen [number of people that need to be screened to detect one person with CAC above the specified cut-point (NNS)] was used to assess the yield of screening for CAC. CAC prevalence was compared across FRS strata using chi-square tests.
CAC >0, ≥100 and ≥300 were present in 46.4%, 20.6% and 10.1% of participants, respectively. Prevalence and amount of CAC increased with higher FRS. CAC ≥300 was observed in 1.7% and 4.4% of those with FRS 0–2.5% and 2.6–5%, respectively (NNS =59.7 and 22.7). Likewise, CAC ≥300 was observed in 24% and 30% of those with FRS 15.1–20% and >20%, respectively (NNS =4.2 and 3.3). Trends were similar when stratified by age, gender and race/ethnicity.
Our study suggests that in very low risk individuals (FRS ≤5%), the yield of screening and probability of identifying persons with clinically significant levels of CAC is low, but becomes greater in low and intermediate risk persons (FRS 5.1–20%).
PMCID: PMC3268231  PMID: 21527159
Framingham risk score; coronary calcium; coronary heart disease; number needed to screen; risk factors; population; atherosclerosis; low risk
5.  Coronary Artery Calcification and Myocardial Perfusion in Asymptomatic Adults: The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
This study assessed the cross-sectional association between coronary artery calcification (CAC) and myocardial perfusion in an asymptomatic population.
Clinical studies showed that the prevalence of stress-induced ischemia increased with CAC burden among patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether an association between CAC and myocardial perfusion exists in subjects without a history of CHD remains largely unknown.
A total of 222 men and women, ages 45 to 84 years old and free of CHD diagnosis, in the Minnesota field center of the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) were studied. Myocardial blood flow (MBF) was measured using magnetic resonance imaging during rest and adenosine-induced hyperemia. Perfusion reserve was calculated as the ratio of hyperemic to resting MBF. Agatston CAC score was determined from chest multidetector computed tomography.
Mean values of hyperemic MBF and perfusion reserve, but not resting MBF, were monotonically lower across increasing CAC levels. After adjusting for age and gender, odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of reduced perfusion reserve (<2.5) for subjects with CAC scores of 0, 0.1 to 99.9, 100 to 399, and ≥400 were 1.00 (reference), 2.16 (0.96 to 4.84), 2.81 (1.04 to 7.58), and 4.99 (1.73 to 14.4), respectively. Further adjustment for other coronary risk factors did not substantially modify the association. However, the inverse association between perfusion reserve and CAC attenuated with advancing age (p for interaction < 0.05).
Coronary vasodilatory response was associated inversely with the presence and severity of CAC in asymptomatic adults. Myocardial perfusion could be impaired by or manifest the progression to subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in the absence of clinical CHD.
PMCID: PMC1853335  PMID: 16949496
6.  The Association Between A1C and Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease 
Diabetes Care  2009;32(9):1727-1733.
To test the hypothesis that A1C is associated with subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a population without evident diabetes, after adjusting for traditional CVD risk factors and BMI.
This was a cross-sectional study of 5,121 participants without clinically evident CVD or diabetes (fasting glucose ≥7.0 mmol/l or use of diabetes medication), aged 47–86 years, enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Measurements included carotid intimal-medial wall thickness (CIMT) and coronary artery calcification (CAC). Results were adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, systolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, antihypertensive medication use, lipid-lowering medication use, and BMI.
Compared with those in the lowest quartile for A1C ([mean ± SD] 5.0 ± 0.2%), participants in the highest quartile (6.0 ± 0.3%) had higher adjusted mean values for common CIMT (0.85 vs. 0.87 mm, P = 0.003) and internal CIMT (1.01 vs. 1.08 mm, P = 0.003). A1C quartile was not associated with prevalence of CAC in the entire cohort (P = 0.27); however, the association was statistically significant in women (adjusted prevalence of CAC in lowest and highest A1C quartiles 37.5 vs. 43.0%, P = 0.01). Among those with some CAC, higher A1C quartile tended to be associated with higher CAC score, but the results were not statistically significant (adjusted P = 0.11).
In this multiethnic cohort, there were small, positive associations between A1C, common CIMT, and internal CIMT in the absence of clinically evident diabetes. An association between higher A1C and CAC prevalence was evident only in women.
PMCID: PMC2732160  PMID: 19549732
7.  The Relationship Between Insulin Resistance and Incidence and Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(3):749-751.
We sought to determine whether insulin resistance predicts the incidence and progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC).
We studied 5,464 participants not on hypoglycemic therapy from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Each had baseline homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and baseline and follow-up CAC scores. Incident CAC was defined as newly detectable CAC; progression was defined as advancing CAC volume score at follow-up.
Median HOMA-IR was 1.2 (0.8–2.0). Across all ethnicities, there was a graded increase in CAC incidence and progression with increasing HOMA-IR. When compared with those in the 1st quartile, participants in the 2nd–4th quartiles had 1.2, 1.5, and 1.8 times greater risk of developing CAC. Median annualized CAC score progression was 8, 14, and 17 higher, respectively. However, HOMA-IR was not predictive after adjustment for metabolic syndrome components.
HOMA-IR predicts CAC incidence and progression, but not independently of metabolic syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3041221  PMID: 21292863
8.  Factors Associated with Presence and Extent of Coronary Calcium in Individuals Predicted to be at Low Risk Based on Framingham Risk Score (From The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
The American journal of cardiology  2011;107(6):879-885.
Even among asymptomatic people at low risk (<10%) by Framingham Risk Score (FRS), high coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores signify higher predicted risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events. We sought to determine non-invasive factors (without radiation exposure) significantly associated with CAC in low-risk, asymptomatic persons. In a cross-sectional analysis, we studied 3046 participants from MESA at low 10-year predicted risk (FRS <10%) for CHD events. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association of novel markers with presence of any CAC (CAC >0) and advanced CAC (CAC ≥ 300). CAC >0 and CAC ≥ 300 were present in 30% and 3.5% of participants, respectively. Factor VIIIc, fibrinogen and sICAM were each associated with CAC presence (P ≤ 0.02); and C-reactive protein, D-dimer and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) with advanced CAC (P ≤ 0.03). The base model combining traditional risk factors had excellent discrimination for advanced CAC (C-statistic, 0.808). Addition of the 2 best-fit models combining biomarkers plus/minus CIMT improved the c-statistics to 0.822 and 0.820, respectively. All 3 models calibrated well, but were similar in estimating individual risk probabilities for advanced CAC (prevalence = 9.97%, 10.63% and 10.10% in the highest quartiles of predicted probabilities versus 0.26%, 0.26% and 0.26% in the lowest quartiles, respectively). In conclusion, in low risk individuals, traditional risk factors alone predicted advanced CAC with high discrimination and calibration. Biomarker combinations +/− CIMT were also significantly associated with advanced CAC, but improvement in prediction and estimation of clinical risk were modest compared to traditional risk factors alone.
PMCID: PMC3182475  PMID: 21376929
coronary calcium; biomarkers; novel markers; low-risk; risk factors
9.  Coronary Artery Calcium Score and Risk Classification for Coronary Heart Disease Prediction: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Coronary artery calcium score (CACS) has been shown to predict future coronary heart disease (CHD) events. However, the extent to which adding CACS to traditional CHD risk factors improves classification of risk is unclear.
To determine whether adding CACS to a prediction model based on traditional risk factors improves classification of risk.
Design, Setting and Participants
CACS was measured by computed tomography on 6,814 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a population-based cohort without known cardiovascular disease. Recruitment spanned July 2000 to September 2002; follow-up extended through May 2008. Participants with diabetes were excluded for the primary analysis. Five-year risk estimates for incident CHD were categorized as 0-<3%, 3-<10%, and ≥10% using Cox proportional hazards models. Model 1 used age, gender, tobacco use, systolic blood pressure, antihypertensive medication use, total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and race/ethnicity. Model 2 used these risk factors plus CACS. We calculated the net reclassification improvement (NRI) and compared the distribution of risk using Model 2 versus Model 1.
Main Outcome Measures
Incident CHD events
Over 5.8 years median follow-up, 209 CHD events occurred, of which 122 were myocardial infarction, death from CHD, or resuscitated cardiac arrest. Model 2 resulted in significant improvements in risk prediction compared to Model 1 (NRI=0.25, 95% confidence interval 0.16-0.34, P<0.001). With Model 1, 69% of the cohort was classified in the highest or lowest risk categories, compared to 77% with Model 2. An additional 23% of those who experienced events were reclassified to high risk, and an additional 13% without events were reclassified to low risk using Model 2.
In the MESA cohort, addition of CACS to a prediction model based on traditional risk factors significantly improved the classification of risk and placed more individuals in the most extreme risk categories.
PMCID: PMC3033741  PMID: 20424251
10.  Associations of SNPs in ADIPOQ and subclinical cardiovascular disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2010;19(4):840-847.
Circulating adiponectin has been associated with both clinical and subclinical cardiovascular disease (CVD). Variants of the adiponectin gene (ADIPOQ) are associated with clinical CVD, but little is known about associations with subclinical CVD. We studied the association of 11 ADIPOQ SNPs with common and internal carotid intima media thickness (cIMT), presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC), and CAC scores (in those with CAC) in 2847 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Participants were Caucasian (n=712), African-American (n=712), Chinese (n=718), and Hispanic (n=705). All models were adjusted for age, sex, and field site, and stratified by race/ethnic group. African-Americans with genotypes AG/GG of rs2241767 had 36% greater (95% CI (16%, 59%), p=0.0001) CAC prevalence; they also had a larger common cIMT (p=0.0043). Also in African-Americans, genotypes AG/AA of rs1063537 were associated with a 35% (95% CI (14%, 59%), p=0.0005) greater CAC prevalence. Hispanics with the AA genotype of rs11711353 had a 37% (95% CI (14%, 66%), p=0.0011), greater CAC prevalence compared to those with the GG genotype. Additional adjustment for ancestry in African-American and Hispanic participants did not change the results. No single SNP was associated with subclinical CVD phenotypes in Chinese or Caucasian participants. There appears to be an association between ADIPOQ SNPs and subclinical CVD in African-American and Hispanics. Replication as well as assessment of other ADIPOQ SNPs appears warranted.
PMCID: PMC3510267  PMID: 20930713
11.  Association between Obesity, hsCRP ≥2 mg/L, and Subclinical Atherosclerosis: Implications of JUPITER from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels are closely associated with abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The JUPITER trial has encouraged using hsCRP ≥2 mg/L to guide statin therapy; however the association of hsCRP to atherosclerosis, independent of obesity, remains unknown.
Methods and Results
We studied 6,760 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Participants were stratified into 4 groups: non-obese/low hsCRP, non-obese/high hsCRP, obese/low hsCRP, and obese/high hsCRP. Using multivariable logistic and robust linear regression, we described the association with subclinical atherosclerosis, using coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT). Mean BMI was 28.3 ± 5.5 kg/m2, and median hsCRP was 1.9 mg/L (0.84 – 4.26). High hsCRP, in the absence of obesity, was not associated with CAC and was mildly associated with cIMT. Obesity was strongly associated with CAC and cIMT independent of hsCRP. When obesity and high hsCRP were both present, there was no evidence of multiplicative interaction. Similar associations were seen among 2,083 JUPITER-eligible individuals.
High hsCRP, as defined by JUPITER, was not associated with CAC and was mildly associated with cIMT in the absence of obesity. In contrast, obesity was associated with both measures of subclinical atherosclerosis independent of hsCRP status.
PMCID: PMC3130297  PMID: 21474823
obesity; hsCRP; high sensitivity C-reactive protein; subclinical atherosclerosis; coronary artery calcium; carotid intima-media thickness
12.  Associations between markers of subclinical atherosclerosis and dietary patterns derived by principal components analysis and reduced rank regression in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)1–3 
The association between diet and cardiovascular disease (CVD) may be mediated partly through inflammatory processes and reflected by markers of subclinical atherosclerosis.
We investigated whether empirically derived dietary patterns are associated with coronary artery calcium (CAC) and common and internal carotid artery intima media thickness (IMT) and whether prior information about inflammatory processes would increase the strength of the associations.
At baseline, dietary patterns were derived with the use of a food-frequency questionnaire, and inflammatory biomarkers, CAC, and IMT were measured in 5089 participants aged 45–84 y, who had no clinical CVD or diabetes, in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Dietary patterns based on variations in C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, homocysteine, and fibrinogen concentrations were created with reduced rank regression (RRR). Dietary patterns based on variations in food group intake were created with principal components analysis (PCA).
The primary RRR(RRR 1) and PCA(PCA factor 1) dietary patterns were high in total and saturated fat and low in fiber and micronutrients. However, the food sources of these nutrients differed between the dietary patterns. RRR 1 was positively associated with CAC [Agatston score >0: OR(95% CI) for quartile 5 compared with quartile 1 = 1.34 (1.05, 1.71); ln(Agatston score = 1): P for trend = 0.023] and with common carotid IMT [≥1.0 mm: OR (95% CI) for quartile 5 compared with quartile 1 = 1.33 (0.99, 1.79); ln(common carotid IMT): P for trend = 0.006]. PCA 1 was not associated with CAC or IMT.
The results suggest that subtle differences in dietary pattern composition, realized by incorporating measures of inflammatory processes, affect associations with markers of subclinical atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2858465  PMID: 17556701
Dietary patterns; principal components analysis; reduced rank regression; carotid artery intima media thickness; coronary artery calcium
13.  Arterial Age as a Function of Coronary Artery Calcium (From the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis [MESA]) 
It has been proposed that coronary artery calcium (CAC) can be used to estimate an arterial age in adults. Supporting this concept is that chronologic age, as used in cardiovascular risk assessment, is a surrogate for atherosclerotic burden. This measure can provide the patient with a more understandable version of their CAC score (e.g. you are 55 years old, but your arteries are more consistent with an arterial age of 65). We describe a method of estimating arterial age by equating estimated coronary heart disease (CHD) risk for observed age and coronary artery calcium (CAC). Arterial age is then the risk-equivalent of coronary artery calcium. We use data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a cohort study of 6814 participants free of clinical cardiovascular disease, followed for an average of 4 years. Estimated arterial age is obtained as a simple linear function of log-transformed CAC. In a model for incident CHD risk controlling for both age and arterial age, only arterial age was significant, indicating that observed age does not provide additional information after controlling for arterial age. Framingham risk calculated using this arterial age is more predictive of short-term incident coronary events than Framingham risk based on observed age (area under the ROC curve 0.75 for Framingham risk based on observed age, 0.79 using arterial age, p=0.006). In conclusion, arterial age provides a convenient transformation of CAC from Agatston units to a scale more easily appreciated by both patients and treating physicians.
PMCID: PMC2621006  PMID: 19101230
14.  Adipokines, Insulin Resistance and Coronary Artery Calcification 
We evaluated the hypothesis that plasma levels of adiponectin and leptin are independently but oppositely associated with coronary calcification (CAC), a measure of subclinical atherosclerosis. In addition, we assessed which biomarkers of adiposity and insulin resistance are the strongest predictors of CAC beyond traditional risk factors, the metabolic syndrome and plasma C-reactive protein (CRP).
Adipokines are fat-secreted biomolecules with pleiotropic actions that converge in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
We examined the association of plasma adipocytokines with CAC in 860 asymptomatic, non-diabetic participants in the Study of Inherited Risk of Coronary Atherosclerosis (SIRCA).
Plasma adiponectin and leptin levels had opposite and distinct associations with adiposity, insulin resistance and inflammation. Plasma leptin was positively (top vs. bottom quartile) associated with higher CAC after adjusting for age, gender, traditional risk factors and Framingham Risk Scores (FRS) [tobit regression ratio 2.42 (95% CI 1.48–3.95, p=0.002)] and further adjusting for metabolic syndrome and CRP [ratio 2.31 (95% CI 1.36–3.94, p=0.002)]. In contrast, adiponectin levels were not associated with CAC. Comparative analyses suggested that levels of leptin, IL-6 and sol-TNFR2 as well as HOMA-IR predicted CAC scores but only leptin and HOMA-IR provided value beyond risk factors, the metabolic syndrome and CRP.
In SIRCA, while both leptin and adiponectin levels were associated with metabolic and inflammatory markers, only leptin was a significant independent predictor of CAC. Of several metabolic markers, leptin and the HOMA-IR index had the most robust, independent associations with CAC.
Condensed Abstract
Adipokines are fat-secreted biomolecules with pleiotropic actions and represent novel markers for cardiovascular risk. We examined the association of plasma adipocytokines with CAC in 860 asymptomatic, non-diabetic Caucasians. Leptin was positively (top vs. bottom quartile) associated with higher CAC even after adjustment for age, gender, traditional risk factors, Framingham Risk Score, metabolic syndrome, and CRP [ratio 2.31 (95% CI 1.36–3.94, p=0.002)]. Adiponectin levels were not associated with CAC. Comparative analyses suggested that levels of leptin, IL-6 and sol-TNFR2 as well as HOMA-IR predicted CAC scores, but only leptin and HOMA-IR provided value beyond risk factors, the metabolic syndrome and CRP.
PMCID: PMC2853595  PMID: 18617073
Adiponectin; Leptin; Coronary Artery Calcification; Atherosclerosis; Inflammation
15.  Do Neighborhood Socioeconomic Deprivation and Low Social Cohesion Predict Coronary Calcification? 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2010;172(3):288-298.
Growing evidence suggests that neighborhood characteristics may influence the risk of coronary heart disease. No studies have yet explored associations of neighborhood attributes with subclinical atherosclerosis in younger adult populations. Using data on 2,974 adults (1,699 women, 1,275 men) aged 32–50 years in 2000 from the Coronary Artery Disease Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study and 2000 US Census block-group-level data, the authors estimated multivariable-adjusted associations of neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation and perceived neighborhood cohesion with odds of coronary artery calcification (CAC) 5 years later. Among women, the quartiles of highest neighborhood deprivation and lowest cohesion were associated with higher odds of CAC after adjustment for individual-level demographic and socioeconomic factors (for deprivation, odds ratio = 2.49, 95% confidence interval: 1.22, 5.08 (P for trend = 0.03); for cohesion, odds ratio = 1.87, 95% confidence interval: 1.10, 3.16 (P for trend = 0.02)). Associations changed only slightly after adjustment for behavioral, psychosocial, and biologic factors. Among men, neither neighborhood deprivation nor cohesion was related to CAC. However, among men in deprived neighborhoods, low cohesion predicted higher CAC odds (for interaction between neighborhood deprivation and cohesion, P = 0.03). This study provides evidence on associations of neighborhood deprivation and cohesion with CAC in younger, asymptomatic adults. Neighborhood attributes may contribute to subclinical atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2917055  PMID: 20610467
atherosclerosis; coronary disease; residence characteristics; risk factors; social environment
16.  Shared Genetic Architecture in the Relationship between Adult Stature and Subclinical Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2011;219(2):679-683.
Short stature is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD); although the mechanisms for this relationship are unknown, shared genetic factors have been proposed. Subclinical atherosclerosis, measured by coronary artery calcification (CAC), is associated with CHD events and represents part of the biological continuum to overt CHD. Many molecular mechanisms of CAC development are shared with bone growth. Thus, we examined whether there was evidence of shared genes (pleiotropy) between adult stature and CAC.
877 asymptomatic white adults (46% men) from 625 families in a community-based sample had computed tomography measures of CAC. Pleiotropy between height and CAC was determined using maximum-likelihood estimation implemented in SOLAR.
Adult height was significantly and inversely associated with CAC score (P=0.01). After adjusting for age, sex, and CHD risk factors, the estimated genetic correlation between height and CAC score was -0.37 and was significantly different than 0 (P=0.001) and -1 (P<0.001). The environmental correlation between height and CAC score was 0.60 and was significantly different than 0 (P=0.024).
Further studies of shared genetic factors between height and CAC may provide important insight into the complex genetic architecture of CHD, in part through increased understanding of the molecular pathways underlying the process of both normal growth and disease development. Bivariate genetic linkage analysis may provide a powerful mechanism for identifying specific genomic regions associated with both height and CAC.
PMCID: PMC3226925  PMID: 21937044
Genetics; Atherosclerosis; Calcium; Imaging; Stature
17.  Sex Differences in Subclinical Atherosclerosis by Race/Ethnicity in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;174(2):165-172.
Sex differences in cardiovascular disease mortality are more pronounced among non-Hispanic whites than other racial/ethnic groups, but it is unknown whether this variation is present in the earlier subclinical stages of disease. The authors examined racial/ethnic variation in sex differences in coronary artery calcification (CAC) and carotid intimal media thickness at baseline in 2000–2002 among participants (n = 6,726) in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis using binomial and linear regression. Models adjusted for risk factors in several stages: age, traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, behavioral risk factors, psychosocial factors, and adult socioeconomic position. Women had a lower prevalence of any CAC and smaller amounts of CAC when present than men in all racial/ethnic groups. Sex differences in the prevalence of CAC were more pronounced in non-Hispanic whites than in African Americans and Chinese Americans after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, and further adjustment for behavioral factors, psychosocial factors, and socioeconomic position did not modify these results (for race/sex, Pinteraction = 0.047). Similar patterns were observed for amount of CAC among adults with CAC. Racial/ethnic variation in sex differences for carotid intimal media thickness was less pronounced. In conclusion, coronary artery calcification is differentially patterned by sex across racial/ethnic groups.
PMCID: PMC3167681  PMID: 21685409
calcification, physiologic; continental population groups; coronary vessels; sex; social class
18.  Association of Electrocardiographic Abnormalities with Coronary Artery Calcium and Carotid Artery Intima-Media Thickness in Individuals without Clinical Coronary Heart Disease (From the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis [MESA]) 
The American journal of cardiology  2009;104(8):1086-1091.
Isolated minor non-specific ST-segment and T-wave (NSSTA), minor and major electrocardiographic (ECG) abnormalities are established, independent risk markers for incident cardiovascular events. Their association with subclinical atherosclerosis has been postulated but is not clearly defined. The aim of this study is to define the association between ECG abnormalities and measures of subclinical atherosclerosis. We studied participants from MESA, a multi-ethnic sample of men and women aged 45–84 and free of clinical cardiovascular disease at enrollment. Baseline examination included measurement of traditional risk factors, resting 12-lead electrocardiograms, coronary artery calcium (CAC) measurement and common carotid intima-media thickness (CCIMT). Electrocardiograms were coded using Novacode criteria and were defined as having either minor abnormalities (e.g., minor non-specific STTA, first degree atrioventricular block, and QRS axis deviations) or major abnormalities (e.g., pathologic Q waves, major ST-segment and T-wave abnormalities, significant dysrhythmias and conduction system delays). Multivariable logistic and linear regressions were used to determine the cross-sectional associations of ECG abnormalities with CAC and common carotid-IMT. Among 6710 participants, 52.7% were women, with a mean age of 62 years. After multivariable-adjustment, isolated minor STTA, minor and major ECG abnormalities were not associated with the presence of CAC (>0) among men (OR 1.04, 95% CI 0.81–1.33; 1.10, 0.91–1.32; and 1.03, 0.81–1.31, respectively) or women (1.01, 0.82–1.24; 1.04, 0.87–1.23; and 0.94, 0.73–1.22, respectively). Lack of association remained consistent when using both log CAC and CC-IMT as continuous variables. ECG abnormalities are not associated with markers of subclinical atherosclerosis in a large multi-ethnic cohort.
PMCID: PMC2871277  PMID: 19801030
19.  The General Cardiovascular Risk Profile Identifies Advanced Coronary Artery Calcium and is Improved by Family History. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
The General Cardiovascular Risk Profile (GCRP) is a multivariable model that predicts global cardiovascular disease risk. Our goal was to assess the ability of the GCRP to identify individuals with advanced coronary artery calcification (CAC), and determine whether identification is improved with family history.
Methods and Results
Using data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, three sex-specific models were developed with ordinal logistic regressions to relate risk factors to CAC scores. Model 1 included covariates in the GCRP. Then family history was added, defined as having at least one first-degree relative with premature coronary heart disease (CHD) (Model 2), or as a weak, moderate or strong family history based on number of relatives with CHD, age at onset, and presence of stroke or diabetes in the family (Model 3). For each model, we estimated mathematical CAC risk functions, derived CAC score sheets, evaluated the ability to discriminate persons having positive CAC scores, and assessed reclassification of individuals with low, intermediate, or high probability of CAC >300. Model 1 worked well to identify women and men with positive CAC scores; c-statistics were 0.752 and 0.718 and X2 values were 821.2 (p<0.0001) and 730.6 (p<0.0001), respectively. Addition of family history improved discrimination and fit of Model 1. However, reclassification of participants with advanced CAC was significantly improved with Model 3 only.
The GCRP identifies advanced CAC, an emerging indication for aggressive risk factor modification. Incorporation of family history, especially comprehensive familial risk stratification, provides incremental prognostic value.
PMCID: PMC2932659  PMID: 20160201
coronary artery calcium; family history; risk factors
20.  Impact of Subclinical Atherosclerosis on Cardiovascular Disease Events in Individuals With Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes 
Diabetes Care  2011;34(10):2285-2290.
While metabolic syndrome (MetS) and diabetes confer greater cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, recent evidence suggests that individuals with these conditions have a wide range of risk. We evaluated whether screening for coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intimal-medial thickness (CIMT) can improve CVD risk stratification over traditional risk factors (RFs) in people with MetS and diabetes.
We assessed CAC and CIMT in 6,603 people aged 45–84 years in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Cox regression examined the association of CAC and CIMT with coronary heart disease (CHD) and CVD over 6.4 years in MetS and diabetes.
Of the subjects, 1,686 (25%) had MetS but no diabetes and 881 (13%) had diabetes. Annual CHD event rates were 1.0% among MetS and 1.5% for diabetes. Ethnicity and RF-adjusted hazard ratios for CHD for CAC 1–99 to ≥400 vs. 0 in subjects with neither MetS nor diabetes ranged from 2.6 to 9.5; in those with MetS, they ranged from 3.9 to 11.9; and in those with diabetes, they ranged from 2.9 to 6.2 (all P < 0.05 to P < 0.001). Findings were similar for CVD. CAC increased the C-statistic for events (P < 0.001) over RFs and CIMT in each group while CIMT added negligibly to prediction over RFs.
Individuals with MetS or diabetes have low risks for CHD when CAC or CIMT is not increased. Prediction of CHD and CVD events is improved by CAC more than by CIMT. Screening for CAC or CIMT can stratify risk in people with MetS and diabetes and support the latest recommendations regarding CAC screening in those with diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3177707  PMID: 21844289
21.  Tissue factor pathway inhibitor, vascular risk factors and subclinical atherosclerosis: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2009;207(1):277-283.
Tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) is an endothelial membrane-associated anticoagulant protein. Higher circulating levels might reflect endothelial damage.
We hypothesized an association of higher total TFPI with subclinical atherosclerosis.
Total TFPI was measured in 1000 participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a cohort of 6814 men and women without clinical vascular disease, aged 45–84, from 4 ethnic groups. Subclinical atherosclerosis measures were coronary artery calcium (CAC), carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and ankle-brachial index (ABI).
TFPI was higher with age, male gender, higher LDL-cholesterol, smoking and diabetes, but not ethnicity. Adjusting for risk factors, TFPI in the 4th versus 1st quartile was associated with a 1.2-fold increased risk of detectable CAC (95% CI 1.0–1.4), a 2.1-fold increased risk of CAC >400 Agatston units (95% CI 1.1–4.0) and a 1.6-fold (95% CI 1.1–2.5) increased risk of internal carotid IMT above the 80th percentile, but not with external carotid IMT or low ABI. Findings were consistent across ethnic groups.
In this diverse population, higher total TFPI was associated with prevalent CAC (limited to levels >400 units), and elevated internal carotid IMT, independent of other factors. Higher TFPI may indicate endothelial dysfunction. Further study is needed of TFPI and progression of atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2784263  PMID: 19467658
atherosclerosis; coronary heart disease; tissue factor pathway inhibitor; risk factor
22.  Elevated Fibrinogen Levels and Subsequent Subclinical Atherosclerosis: The CARDIA Study 
Atherosclerosis  2008;202(2):623-631.
To determine whether elevated levels of hemostatic factors are associated with the subsequent development of subclinical cardiovascular disease.
Fibrinogen, factors VII (FVII) and VIII (FVIII), and von Willebrand factor (vWF) were measured in 1396 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Coronary artery calcification (CAC) and carotid intimal/medial thickness (CIMT) were determined 13 years later. The adjusted prevalence of CAC and mean CIMT across the quartiles of each hemostatic factor was computed for the total sample and for each race and gender group.
The age, race, and gender-adjusted prevalences of CAC with increasing quartiles of fibrinogen were 14.4%, 15.2%, 20.0%, and 29.1% (p<0.001 for trend). This trend persisted after further adjustment for body mass index (BMI), smoking, educational level, center, systolic blood pressure (BP), diabetes, antihypertensive medication use, total and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and CRP. A similar trend was observed for CIMT (age, race and gender-adjusted, p<0.001; multivariable-adjusted, p=0.014). Further analyses of race and gender subgroups showed that increasing quartiles of fibrinogen were associated with CAC and CIMT in all subgroups except black men. The prevalence of CAC was not associated with increasing quartiles of FVII, FVIII or vWF, suggesting they may be less involved in plaque progression.
An elevated fibrinogen concentration in persons aged 25 to 37 is independently associated with subclinical cardiovascular disease in the subsequent decade.
PMCID: PMC2662501  PMID: 18602107
hemostatic factors; coronary calcium; carotid thickness; fibrinogen; atherosclerosis
23.  Coronary Artery Calcification Compared with Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Prediction of Cardiovascular Disease Incidence: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Archives of internal medicine  2008;168(12):1333-1339.
Coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) are noninvasive measures of atherosclerosis that consensus panels have recommended as possible additions to risk factor assessment for predicting the probability of cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurrence.
To assess whether maximum carotid IMT or CAC (Agatston Score) is the better predictor of incident CVD.
Design, Setting, Patients
Prospective cohort study of 45–84 year-olds initially free of CVD (n = 6,698) in four ethnic groups, with standardized carotid IMT and CAC measures at baseline, in six field centers of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Incident CVD events (coronary heart disease, stroke, and fatal CVD) over a maximum of 5.3 years of follow-up.
There were 222 CVD events during follow-up. CAC was associated more strongly than carotid IMT with risk of incident CVD. After adjustment for each other and traditional CVD risk factors, the hazard of CVD increased 2.1-fold (95% CI 1.8–2.5) for each standard deviation greater level of log-transformed CAC, versus 1.3-fold (95% CI 1.1–1.4) for each standard deviation greater maximum IMT. For coronary heart disease, the hazard ratios per standard deviation increment were 2.5-fold (95% CI 2.1–3.1) for CAC and 1.2-fold (95% CI 1.0–1.4) for IMT. An ROC analysis also suggested that CAC predicted incident CVD better than IMT did.
Although whether and how to clinically use bio-imaging tests of subclinical atherosclerosis remains a topic of debate, this study found that CAC predicts subsequent CVD events better than does carotid IMT.
PMCID: PMC2555989  PMID: 18574091
24.  Statistical Modeling of Agatston Score in Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12036.
The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) is an ongoing study of the prevalence, risk factors, and progression of subclinical cardiovascular disease in a multi-ethnic cohort. It provides a valuable opportunity to examine the development and progression of CAC (coronary artery calcium), which is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease. In MESA, about half of the CAC scores are zero and the rest are continuously distributed. Such data has been referred to as “zero-inflated data” and may be described using two-part models. Existing two-part model studies have limitations in that they usually consider parametric models only, make the assumption of known forms of the covariate effects, and focus only on the estimation property of the models. In this article, we investigate statistical modeling of CAC in MESA. Building on existing studies, we focus on two-part models. We investigate both parametric and semiparametric, and both proportional and nonproportional models. For various models, we study their estimation as well as prediction properties. We show that, to fully describe the relationship between covariates and CAC development, the semiparametric model with nonproportional covariate effects is needed. In contrast, for the purpose of prediction, the parametric model with proportional covariate effects is sufficient. This study provides a statistical basis for describing the behaviors of CAC and insights into its biological mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2918511  PMID: 20711503
25.  Inflammation, Coronary Artery Calcification and Cardiovascular Events in Incident Renal Transplant Recipients 
Atherosclerosis  2010;212(2):589-594.
Coronary artery calcification (CAC) predicts cardiovascular events in the general population. We conducted a prospective study to determine if inflammatory markers were predictive of CAC and if CAC predicted cardiovascular events and mortality in incident renal transplant recipients.
A prospective cohort of 112 asymptomatic incident renal transplant recipients who had no prior history of coronary artery revascularization or myocardial infarction had coronary calcifications measured early post-transplant and at least 18 months later by Agatston score and volume method.
The mean CAC score was 367.7 (682.3). Inflammatory markers such as WBC and CRP were predictive of CAC severity. Recipients with cardiovascular events (n=11) or death (n=12) during the follow-up period had higher mean [675.1 (669.3) vs. 296.8(669.0), p=0.02] and median [434.8 vs. 28.9, p=0.01] CAC score compared to those without them. Recipients with CAC score less than 100 had a better cumulative survival rate compared to the recipients with CAC score greater than 100 [95.1 vs. 82.3%, p=0.03]. We found a significant unadjusted and adjusted association between CAC score and cardiovascular events and mortality. A quarter (25.9%) of recipients had CAC progression. Coronary calcification progression also predicted cardiovascular events and mortality after adjustment for diabetes, age, dialysis vintage and presence of CAC at time of transplant.
CAC is prevalent in renal recipients and is predictive of cardiovascular events and mortality. Changes in coronary calcification are common and predict clinical outcomes. Inflammatory markers are predictive of CAC severity at time of transplant, but are not predictive of future cardiovascular event or mortality.
PMCID: PMC2953547  PMID: 20934074
coronary calcification; EBCT; renal transplant; inflammation; C-reactive protein

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