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1.  A comparison of outcomes with coronary artery calcium scanning in Unselected Populations - The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR)) differed in regards to informing physicians and patients of the results of their subclinical atherosclerosis.
This study investigates whether the association of coronary artery calcium (CAC) with incident non-fatal and fatal cardiovascular (CVD) events is different among these two large, population-based observational studies.
All Caucasian subjects aged 45–75 years, free of baseline cardiovascular disease were included (n=2232 in MESA, n=3119 HNR participants). We studied the association between CAC and event rates at 5 years, including hard cardiac events (MI, cardiac death, resuscitated cardiac arrest), and separately added revascularizations, and strokes (fatal and non-fatal) to determine adjusted hazard ratios (HR).
Both cohorts demonstrated very low CHD (including revascularization) rates with zero calcium (1.13 and 1.16% over 5 years in MESA and HNR respectively) and increasing significantly in both groups with CAC 100–399 (6.71 and 4.52% in MESA and HNR) and CAC >400 (12.5 and 13.54% in MESA and HNR respectively) and demonstrating strong independent predictive values for scores of 100–399 and >400, despite multivariable adjustment for risk factors. Risk factor adjusted five year revascularization rates were nearly identical for HNR and MESA, and generally low for both studies (1.4% [45/3119] for HNR and 1.9% [43/2232] for MESA) over 5 years.
Across two culturally diverse populations, CAC >400 is a strong predictor of events. High CAC did not determininistically result in revascularization and knowledge of CAC did not increase revascularizations.
PMCID: PMC3732186  PMID: 23849491
coronary artery calcification; subclinical atherosclerosis; Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA); Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR)
2.  Associations between Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and aortic valve or coronary artery calcification: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study 
Atherosclerosis  2013;229(2):310-316.
The association between non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and the incidence of valvular and arterial calcification is not well established despite known associations between these drugs and cardiovascular events.
To compare the association between the baseline use of aspirin with other NSAID class medications with the incidence and prevalence of aortic valve calcification (AVC) and coronary artery calcium (CAC).
The relationship of NSAID use to AVC and CAC detected by computed tomography was assessed in 6,814 participants within the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) using regression modeling. Results were adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, study site, anti-hypertensive medication use, education, income, health insurance status, diabetes, smoking, exercise, body mass index, blood pressure, serum lipids, inflammatory markers, fasting glucose, statin medication use, and a simple diet score. Medication use was assessed by medication inventory at baseline which includes the use of non-prescription NSAIDs. MESA collects information on both incident and prevalent calcification. The 4,814 participants of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) Study, a German prospective cohort study with similar measures of calcification, were included in this analysis to enable replication.
Mean age of the MESA participants was 62 years (51% female). After adjustment for possible confounding factors, a possible association between aspirin use and incident AVC (Relative Risk(RR): 1.60; 95%Confidence Interval (CI): 1.19–2.15) did not replicate in the HNR cohort (RR: 1.06; 95%CI: 0.87–1.28). There was no significant association between aspirin use and incident CAC in the MESA cohort (RR 1.08; 95%CI: 0.91–1.29) or in the HNR cohort (RR 1.24; 95%CI: 0.87–1.77). Non-aspirin NSAID use was not associated with either AVC or CAC in either cohort. There were no associations between regular cardiac dose aspirin and incident calcification in either cohort.
Baseline NSAID use, as assessed by medication inventory, appears to have no protective effect regarding the onset of calcification in either coronary arteries or aortic valves.
PMCID: PMC3724227  PMID: 23880181
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; aspirin; aortic valve calcification; coronary artery calcification; Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis; Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study
3.  Comparison of Subclinical Coronary Atherosclerosis and Risk Factors in Unselected Populations in Germany and US-America 
Atherosclerosis  2007;195(1):e207-e216.
On the basis of the Framingham risk algorithm, overestimation of clinical events has been reported in some European populations. Electron-beam computed tomography-derived quantification of coronary artery calcification (CAC) allows for noninvasive assessment of coronary atherosclerosis in the general population and may thus add important in vivo information on the path from risk factor exposure to formation of clinical events. The current study was undertaken to compare the relationship between risk factors and subclinical coronary atherosclerosis between non-Hispanic white cohorts in Germany and US-America, the hypothesis being that subclinical coronary atherosclerosis might be less prevalent in Europe at the same level of classical risk factor exposure.
The Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) study, conducted in the German Ruhr area and the Epidemiology of Coronary Calcification (ECAC) study, conducted in Olmsted County, Minnesota, both recruited large unselected cohorts, men and women aged 45 – 74 years, from the general population. All subjects with no history of coronary artery disease (CAD) or stroke were included (n = 3,120 in HNR, n = 703 in ECAC). Coronary risk factors were assessed by personal and computer-assisted interviews and direct laboratory measurements. Cardiovascular medication use (antihypertensive, lipid-lowering, and anti-diabetic) was noted. CAC scores were determined using the Agatston method in an identical fashion in both studies.
Adverse levels of risk factors were more prevalent, and the Framingham risk score was higher (10.6 ± 7.6 vs. 9.3 ± 7.1, p < 0.001) in HNR than ECAC, respectively. There was no difference in body mass index (BMI). CAC scores were greater in HNR than in ECAC (mean values, 155.7 ± 423.0 versus 107.2 ± 280.0; median values, 11.9 versus 2.4; p < 0.001, respectively). When subjects were matched on CAD risk factors, presence and quantity of CAC were similar in the 2 cohorts. Risk factors significantly associated with CAC score in both studies included: age, male sex, current and former smoking, systolic blood pressure, and non HDL-cholesterol. Inferences were similar after excluding subjects using lipid- or blood pressure-lowering medications. Using the same risk factor variables for modelling, the predicted CAC scores were comparable in both cohorts.
In the higher-risk German cohort, presence and quantity of CAC were greater than in the lower-risk US-American cohort. Risk factor associations, however, with CAC were very similar in both unselected populations. As opposed to studies concerning clinical endpoints, we could not demonstrate a relative increase in subclinical coronary atherosclerosis in the US-American cohort.
PMCID: PMC2293130  PMID: 17532322
4.  Comparison of Factors Associated with Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) 
The measurement of carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) is a valid method to quantify levels of atherosclerosis. The present study was conducted to compare the strengths of associations between CIMT and cardiovascular risk factors in two different populations.
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study (HNR) are two population-based prospective cohort studies of subclinical cardiovascular disease. All Caucasian subjects aged 45 to 75 years from these cohorts who were free of baseline cardiovascular disease (n = 2,820 in HNR, n = 2,270 in MESA) were combined. CIMT images were obtained using B-mode sonography at the right and left common carotid artery and measured 1 cm starting from the bulb.
In both studies, age, male sex, and systolic blood pressure showed the strongest association (P < .0001 for each) for a higher CIMT. The mean of mean far wall CIMT was slightly higher in MESA participants (0.71 vs 0.67 mm). Almost all significant variables were consistent between the two cohorts in both magnitude of association with CIMT and statistical significance, including age, sex, smoking, diabetes, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. For example, the association with systolic blood pressure was (ΔSD = 0.011; 95% confidence interval, 0.0009 to 0.014) per mm Hg in MESA and (ΔSD = 0.010; 95% confidence interval, 0.005 to 0.021) per mm Hg in HNR. This consistency persisted throughout the traditional (Framingham) risk factors.
A comparison of the associations between traditional cardiovascular risk factors and CIMT across two culturally diverse populations showed remarkable consistency.
PMCID: PMC3694173  PMID: 23611058
Carotid intima-media thickness; Subclinical atherosclerosis; Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis; MESA; Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study; HNR
5.  Ten-Year Trends in Coronary Calcification in Individuals without Clinical Cardiovascular Disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94916.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence has declined significantly in the US, as have levels of major coronary risk factors, including LDL-cholesterol, hypertension and smoking, but whether trends in subclinical atherosclerosis mirror these trends is not known.
Methods and Findings
To describe recent secular trends in subclinical atherosclerosis as measured by serial evaluations of coronary artery calcification (CAC) prevalence in a population over 10 years, we measured CAC using computed tomography (CT) and CHD risk factors in five serial cross-sectional samples of men and women from four race/ethnic groups, aged 55–84 and without clinical cardiovascular disease, who were members of Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) cohort from 2000 to 2012. Sample sizes ranged from 1062 to 4837. After adjusting for age, gender, and CT scanner, the prevalence of CAC increased across exams among African Americans, whose prevalence of CAC was 52.4% in 2000–02, 50.4% in 2003–04, 60.0% is 2005–06, 57.4% in 2007–08, and 61.3% in 2010–12 (p for trend <0.001). The trend was strongest among African Americans aged 55–64 [prevalence ratio for 2010–12 vs. 2000–02, 1.59 (95% confidence interval 1.06, 2.39); p = 0.005 for trend across exams]. There were no consistent trends in any other ethnic group. Risk factors generally improved in the cohort, and adjustment for risk factors did not change trends in CAC prevalence.
There was a significant secular trend towards increased prevalence of CAC over 10 years among African Americans and no change in three other ethnic groups. Trends did not reflect concurrent general improvement in risk factors. The trend towards a higher prevalence of CAC in African Americans suggests that CHD risk in this population is not improving relative to other groups.
PMCID: PMC3990562  PMID: 24743658
6.  The Association of Framingham and Reynolds Risk Scores with Incidence and Progression of Coronary Artery Calcification in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
To compare the association of the Framingham Risk Score (FRS) and Reynolds Risk Score (RRS) with subclinical atherosclerosis, assessed by incidence and progression of coronary artery calcium (CAC).
The comparative effectiveness of competing risk algorithms for indentifying subclinical atherosclerosis is unknown.
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is a prospective cohort study of 6,814 participants free of baseline CVD. All participants underwent risk factor assessment, as well as baseline and follow-up CAC testing. We assessed the performance of the FRS and RRS to predict CAC incidence and progression using relative risk and robust linear regression.
The study population included 5,140 individuals (61±10 years, 47% males, mean follow-up: 3.1±1.3 years). Among 53% of subjects (n=2,729) with no baseline CAC, 18% (n=510) developed incident CAC. Both the FRS and RRS were significantly predictive of incident CAC [RR 1.40 (95% CI 1.29 – 1.52), and RR 1.41 (95% CI 1.30 – 1.54) per 5% increase in risk, respectively] and CAC progression [mean CAC score change 6.92 (95% CI 5.31 – 8.54) and 6.82 (95% CI 5.51 – 8.14) per 5% increase]. Discordance in risk category classification (< or > 10% 10-year CHD risk) occurred in 13.7%, with only the RRS consistently adding predictive value for incidence and progression of CAC. These subclinical atherosclerosis findings are supported by a CHD events analysis over 5.6±0.7 year follow-up.
Both the RRS and FRS predict onset and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis. However, the RRS may provide additional predictive information when discordance between the scoring systems exists.
PMCID: PMC4079464  PMID: 22051329
coronary artery calcium progression; subclinical atherosclerosis; risk prediction; Reynolds Risk Score; Framingham Risk Score
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Association Between Coronary Artery Calcification Progression and Microalbuminuria 
JACC. Cardiovascular imaging  2010;3(6):595-604.
This study sought to evaluate the relationship between microalbuminuria (MA) and the development and progression of atherosclerosis, as assessed by incident and progression of coronary artery calcification (CAC).
MA is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the mechanism by which MA imparts this increased risk is not known.
The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) study is a prospective cohort study of 6,814 self-identified White, African-American, Hispanic, or Chinese participants free of clinical cardiovascular disease at entry. Of the 6,775 individuals with available urine albumin data, we excluded 97 subjects with macroalbuminuria and 1,023 with missing follow-up CAC data. The final study population consists of 5,666 subjects.
At baseline, individuals with MA were more likely to have CAC >0 compared with those without MA (62% vs. 48%, p < 0.0001). During a mean follow-up of 2.4 ± 0.8 years, those with MA and no CAC at baseline were more likely to develop CAC (relative risk [RR]: 2.05, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.41 to 3.02, p < 0.0001) as compared with those without MA in demographic-adjusted analyses. After multivariant adjustment, the relationship was attenuated but remained statistically significant (RR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.19 to 2.61, p = 0.005). Among those with CAC at baseline, those with versus those without MA had a 15 (95% CI: 8 to 22, p < 0.0001) volume units higher median increase in CAC in demographic-adjusted analyses. After multivariant adjustment, MA remained associated with incident CAC (RR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.19 to 2.61, p = 0.005) and with progression of CAC (median increase in CAC volume score of 9 [95% CI: 2 to 16, p = 0.009]), relative to those without MA.
This large multiethnic, population-based study of asymptomatic individuals demonstrates an increased risk of incident CAC as well as greater CAC progression among those with MA. Further study is needed to determine the degree to which MA precedes and predicts progression of atherosclerosis and how this information can be used to reduce cardiovascular events.
PMCID: PMC4083743  PMID: 20541715
coronary artery calcium; microalbuminuria; risk prediction; coronary heart disease; Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis
Circulation  2009;119(3):382-389.
We hypothesized that individuals with low 10-year but high lifetime cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk would have a greater burden of subclinical atherosclerosis than those with low 10-year but low lifetime risk.
Methods and Results
We included 2988 individuals age ≤50 at exam year 15 from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study and 1076 individuals age ≤50 at study entry from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The 10-year risk and lifetime risk for CVD were estimated for each participant, permitting stratification into three groups: low 10-year (<10%)/low lifetime (<39%) risk, low 10-year (<10%)/high lifetime risk (≥39%), and high 10-year risk (≥10%) or diagnosed diabetes. Baseline levels and change in levels of subclinical atherosclerosis (coronary artery calcium [CAC] or carotid intima-media thickness [IMT]) were compared across risk strata. Among participants with low 10-year risk (91% of all participants) in CARDIA, those with a high lifetime risk compared to low lifetime risk had significantly greater common (0.83 vs 0.80 mm in men; 0.79 vs 0.75 mm in women) and internal (0.85 vs 0.80 mm; 0.80 vs 0.76 mm) carotid IMT, higher CAC prevalence (16.6 vs 9.8%; 7.1 vs 2.3%), and significantly greater incidence of CAC progression (22.3 vs 15.4%; 8.7 vs 5.3%). Similar results were observed in MESA.
Individuals with low 10-year but high lifetime risk have a greater subclinical disease burden and greater incidence of atherosclerotic progression compared to individuals with low 10-year and low lifetime risk, even at younger ages.
PMCID: PMC2836265  PMID: 19139385
epidemiology; risk estimation; prevention
13.  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
14.  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
15.  The Association Between Physical Activity and Both Incident Coronary Artery Calcification and Ankle Brachial Index Progression: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2013;230(2):278-283.
Both coronary artery calcification (CAC) and the ankle brachial index (ABI) are measures of subclinical atherosclerotic disease. The influence of physical activity on the longitudinal change in these measures remains unclear. To assess this we examined the association between these measures and self-reported physical activity in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
At baseline, the MESA participants were free of clinically evident cardiovascular disease. We included all participants with an ABI between 0.90 and 1.40 (n=5656). Predictor variables were based on self-reported measures with physical activity being assessed using the Typical Week Physical Activity Survey from which metabolic equivalent-minutes/week of activity were calculated. We focused on physical activity intensity, intentional exercise, sedentary behavior, and conditioning. Incident peripheral artery disease (PAD) was defined as the progression of ABI to values below 0.90 (given the baseline range of 0.90 to 1.40). Incident CAC was defined as a CAC score >0 Agatston units upon follow up with a baseline score of 0 Agatston units.
Mean age was 61 years, 53% were female, and mean body mass index was 28 kg/m2. After adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors and socioeconomic factors, intentional exercise was protective for incident peripheral artery disease (Relative Risk (RR)= 0.85, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.74 to 0.98). After adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors and socioeconomic factors, there was a significant association between vigorous PA and incident CAC (RR=0.97, 95% CI: 0.94 to 1.00). There was also a significant association between sedentary behavior and increased amount of CAC among participants with CAC at baseline (Δlog(Agatston Units +25)=0.027, 95% CI 0.002, 0.052).
These data suggest that there is an association between physical activity/sedentary behavior and the progression of two different measures of subclinical atherosclerotic disease.
PMCID: PMC4085097  PMID: 24075757
Ankle Brachial Index; Coronary Artery Calcification; Physical Activity; Epidemiology; Prospective Cohort Study
16.  Associations of Inflammatory Markers with Coronary Artery Calcification: Results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Atherosclerosis  2009;209(1):226-229.
Inflammatory markers predict coronary heart disease (CHD). However, associations with coronary artery calcium (CAC), a marker of subclinical CHD, are not established.
We examined cross-sectional associations of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and fibrinogen with CAC presence (Agatston score > 0 by computed tomography) in 6,783 Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants.
In all participants, those in the highest, compared to lowest, quartile of CRP had a relative risk (RR, 95% confidence interval) of 1.13 (1.06-1.19; p<0.01) for CAC in age, sex and ethnicity adjusted models. For highest versus lowest quartiles, relative risks were 1.22 (1.15-1.30; p<0.01) for IL-6 and 1.18 (1.11-1.24; p<0.01) for fibrinogen. Adjusting for CHD risk factors (smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity and dyslipidemia) attenuated RRs. RRs for CAC were 1.05 (0.99-1.12; p=0.63) for CRP, 1.12 (1.06-1.20; p<0.01) for IL-6 and 1.09 (1.02-1.16; p=0.01) for fibrinogen in multivariable adjusted models. Results were similar for men and women and across ethnic groups.
Inflammatory markers were weakly associated with CAC presence and burden in MESA. Our data support the hypothesis that inflammatory biomarkers and CAC reflect distinct pathophysiology.
PMCID: PMC2830357  PMID: 19766217
Atherosclerosis; Calcium; Inflammation; Population
17.  Polypill Therapy, Subclinical Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Events – Implications for the Use of Preventive Pharmacotherapy: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Examine whether the coronary artery calcium score (CAC) can be used to define the target population to treat with a polypill.
Prior studies suggested a single polypill to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the population level.
Participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) were stratified using the criteria of four polypill studies (TIPS, Poly-Iran, Wald's, and the PILL collaboration). We compared coronary heart disease (CHD) and CVD event rates and calculated 5-year number needed to treat (NNT) after stratification based on the CAC score.
Among MESA participants eligible for the TIPS, Poly-Iran, Wald's and PILL collaboration, a CAC=0 was observed in 58.6%, 54.5%, 38.9% and 40.8%, respectively. The rate of CHD events among those with CAC=0 varied from 1.2 to 1.9 events per 1000 person-years, those with CAC 1- 100 had event rates ranging from 4.1 to 5.5, and in those with CAC>100 the event rate ranged from 11.6 to 13.3. The estimated 5-year NNT to prevent one CVD event ranged from 81 to 130 for individuals with CAC=0, 38 to 54 for those with CAC 1-100, and 18 to 20 for those with CAC>100.
Among individuals eligible for treatment with the polypill, the majority of events occurred in those with CAC>100. The group with CAC=0 had a very low event rate and a high projected NNT. The avoidance of treatment in individuals with CAC=0 could allow for significant reductions in the population considered for treatment, with a more selective use of the polypill and as a result, avoiding treatment in those who are unlikely to be benefit
PMCID: PMC4174413  PMID: 24161320
subclinical atherosclerosis; risk stratification; polypill
18.  Calcium Density of Coronary Artery Plaque and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Events 
Coronary artery calcium (CAC), measured by computed tomography (CT), has strong predictive value for incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. The standard CAC score is the Agatston, which is weighted upward for greater calcium density. However, some data suggest increased plaque calcium density may be protective for CVD.
To determine the independent associations of CAC volume and CAC density with incident CVD events.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Multicenter, prospective observational MESA study (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis), conducted at 6 US field centers of 3398 men and women from 4 race/ethnicity groups; non-Hispanic white, African American, Hispanic, and Chinese. Participants were aged 45-84 years, free of known CVD at baseline, had CAC greater than 0 on their baseline CT, and were followed up through October 2010.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Incident coronary heart disease (CHD) and all CVD events
During a median of 7.6 years of follow-up, there were 175 CHD events and an additional 90 other CVD events for a total of 265 CVD events. With both lnCAC volume and CAC density scores in the same multivariable model, the lnCAC volume score showed an independent association with incident CHD, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.81 (95% CI, 1.47-2.23) per standard deviation (SD = 1.6) increase, absolute risk increase 6.1 per 1000 person-years, and for CVD an HR of 1.68 (95% CI, 1.42-1.98) per SD increase, absolute risk increase 7.9 per 1000 person-years. Conversely, the CAC density score showed an independent inverse association, with an HR of 0.73 (95% CI, 0.58-0.91) per SD (SD = 0.7) increase for CHD, absolute risk decrease 5.5 per 1000 person-years, and an HR of 0.71 (95% CI, 0.60-0.85) per SD increase for CVD, absolute risk decrease 8.2 per 1000 person years. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve analyses showed significantly improved risk prediction with the addition of the density score to a model containing the volume score for both CHD and CVD. In the intermediate CVD risk group, the area under the curve for CVD increased from 0.53 (95% CI, 0.48-0.59) to 0.59 (95% CI, 0.54-0.64), P = .02.
Conclusions and Relevance
CAC volume was positively and independently associated with CHD and CVD risk. At any level of CAC volume, CAC density was inversely and significantly associated with CHD and CVD risk. The role of CAC density should be considered when evaluating current CAC scoring systems.
PMCID: PMC4091626  PMID: 24247483
19.  The Association of Bone Density and Calcified Atherosclerosis is Stronger in Women Without Dyslipidemia: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
We tested whether the association between bone mineral density (BMD) and coronary artery calcification (CAC) varies according to dyslipidemia in community-living individuals. Between 2002 and 2005, 305 women and 631 men (mean age of 64 years) and naïve to lipid-modifying medications and estrogen use were assessed for spine BMD, CAC, and total (TC), HDL- and LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.
Random sample of participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) without clinical cardiovascular disease.
Predictor variable
Spine BMD at the L3 vertebrate by computer tomography (CT).
Main outcome
CAC prevalence by CT.
Effect Modifier
Total cholesterol to HDL ratio (TC:HDL) ≥ 5.0.
The association of BMD with CAC differed in women with TC:HDL < 5.0 vs. higher (p-interaction =0.01). In age and race adjusted models, among women with TC:HDL < 5.0, each SD (43.4 mg/cc) greater BMD was associated with a 25% lower prevalence of CAC (Prevalence Ratio [PR] 0.75, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.63–0.89), whereas among women with higher TC:HDL, higher BMD was not significantly associated with CAC (PR 1.22, 95% CI 0.82–1.82). Results were similar using other definitions of hyperlipidemia. In contrast, no consistent association was observed between BMD and CAC in men irrespective of the TC:HDL ratio (p interaction 0.54).
The inverse association of BMD with CAC is stronger in women without dyslipidemia. These data argue against the hypothesis that dyslipidemia is the key factor responsible for the inverse association of BMD with atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4100475  PMID: 21834088
20.  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
21.  Thoracic Aortic Calcification and Coronary Heart Disease Events: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Atherosclerosis  2010;215(1):196-202.
The presence and extent of coronary artery calcium (CAC) is an independent predictor of coronary heart disease (CHD) morbidity and mortality. Few studies have evaluated interactions or independent incremental risk for coronary and thoracic aortic calcification (TAC). The independent predictive value of TAC for CHD events is not well-established.
This study used risk factor and computed tomography scan data from 6,807 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Using the same images for each participant, TAC and CAC were each computed using the Agatston method. The study subjects were free of incident CHD at entry into the study.
The mean age of the study population (n=6807) was 62±10 years (47% males). At baseline, the prevalence of TAC and CAC was 28 % (1,904/6,809) and 50% (3393/6809), respectively. Over 4.5±0.9 years, a total of 232 participants (3.41%) had CHD events, of which 132 (1.94%) had a hard event (myocardial infarction, resuscitated cardiac arrest, or CHD death). There was a significant interaction between gender and TAC for CHD events (p<0.05). Specifically, in women, the risk of all CHD event was nearly 3-fold greater among those with any TAC (hazard ratio: 3.04, 95% CI; 1.60–5.76). After further adjustment for increasing CAC score, this risk was attenuated but remained robust (HR: 2.15, 95% CI: 1.10–4.17). Conversely, there was no significant association between TAC and incident CHD in men. In women, the likelihood ratio chi square statistics indicate that the addition of TAC contributed significantly to predicting incident CHD event above that provided by traditional risk factors alone (chi square= 12.44, p=0.0004) as well as risk factors + CAC scores (chi square= 5.33, p=0.02) . On the other hand, addition of TAC only contributed in the prediction of hard CHD events to traditional risk factors (chi-square=4.33, p=0.04) in women, without contributing to the model containing both risk factors and CAC scores (chi square=1.55, p=0.21).
Our study indicates that TAC is a significant predictor of future coronary events only in women, independent of CAC. On studies obtained for either cardiac or lung applications, determination of TAC may provide modest supplementary prognostic information in women with no extra cost or radiation.
PMCID: PMC4110678  PMID: 21227418
atherosclerosis; cardiac CT; coronary calcium; multi-detector CT; prognosis; thoracic atherosclerosis
22.  Studying variability in human brain aging in a population-based German cohort—rationale and design of 1000BRAINS 
The ongoing 1000 brains study (1000BRAINS) is an epidemiological and neuroscientific investigation of structural and functional variability in the human brain during aging. The two recruitment sources are the 10-year follow-up cohort of the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall (HNR) Study, and the HNR MultiGeneration Study cohort, which comprises spouses and offspring of HNR subjects. The HNR is a longitudinal epidemiological investigation of cardiovascular risk factors, with a comprehensive collection of clinical, laboratory, socioeconomic, and environmental data from population-based subjects aged 45–75 years on inclusion. HNR subjects underwent detailed assessments in 2000, 2006, and 2011, and completed annual postal questionnaires on health status. 1000BRAINS accesses these HNR data and applies a separate protocol comprising: neuropsychological tests of attention, memory, executive functions and language; examination of motor skills; ratings of personality, life quality, mood and daily activities; analysis of laboratory and genetic data; and state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, 3 Tesla) of the brain. The latter includes (i) 3D-T1- and 3D-T2-weighted scans for structural analyses and myelin mapping; (ii) three diffusion imaging sequences optimized for diffusion tensor imaging, high-angular resolution diffusion imaging for detailed fiber tracking and for diffusion kurtosis imaging; (iii) resting-state and task-based functional MRI; and (iv) fluid-attenuated inversion recovery and MR angiography for the detection of vascular lesions and the mapping of white matter lesions. The unique design of 1000BRAINS allows: (i) comprehensive investigation of various influences including genetics, environment and health status on variability in brain structure and function during aging; and (ii) identification of the impact of selected influencing factors on specific cognitive subsystems and their anatomical correlates.
PMCID: PMC4094912  PMID: 25071558
cohort; connectivity; Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study; resting-state; imaging genetics; variability; aging; elderly
23.  Competing Cardiovascular Outcomes Associated with Subclinical Atherosclerosis (From the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) 
The American journal of cardiology  2013;111(11):1541-1546.
Subclinical atherosclerosis measured by coronary artery calcium (CAC) is associated with increased risk for multiple cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes and non-CVD death simultaneously, and we sought to determine the competing risks of specific cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and non-CVD death associated with varying burdens of subclinical atherosclerosis. We included 3095 men and 3486 women from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, aged 45–84 years, and from 4 ethnic groups. Participants were stratified by CAC scores: 0, 1–99, and ≥ 100. We used competing Cox models to determine competing cumulative incidences and hazards ratios within a group (e.g., among those with CAC ≥ 100) and hazards ratios for specific events between groups (e.g., CAC ≥ 100 vs. CAC = 0). We compared risks for specific CVD events and also compared against non-CVD death. In women, during a mean follow up of 7.1 years, the hazards ratios (HR) for any CVD event compared with a non-CVD death occurring first for CAC = 0 and CAC ≥ 100 were 1.40 (95% CI, 0.97–2.04) and 3.07 (2.02–4.67), respectively. CHD was the most common first CVD event type at all levels of CAC, and CHD rates were 9.5% vs. 1.6% (HR 6.24; 3.99–9.75) for women with CAC ≥100 compared with CAC = 0. We observed similar results in men. In conclusion, at all levels of CAC, CHD was the most common first CVD event and this analysis represents a novel approach to understanding the temporal sequence of cardiovascular events associated with atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3657323  PMID: 23499272
coronary artery calcium; competing risks
24.  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
25.  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

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