Racial differences exist in disease rates and mortality in both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). The objective of this cross-sectional study was to compare the frequency of and risk factors for subclinical CVD in African-American (AA) and Caucasian women with SLE and no prior CVD events.
Traditional CVD risk factors and SLE-related factors were assessed in 309 SLE women. Subclinical CVD was assessed by carotid ultrasound to measure intima-medial thickness (IMT) and plaque, and electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) to measure coronary artery calcium (CAC).
AA had less education, higher body mass index, blood pressure, lipoprotein(a), CRP, fibrinogen, and ESR, but lower albumin; more and longer duration of corticosteroid use; higher SLE disease activity and damage; and more had dsDNA antibodies compared to Caucasian women, after adjustment for age and study-site. More AA had carotid plaque (adjusted OR 1.94, 95%CI 1.03, 3.65) and higher carotid IMT (0.620 vs. 0.605mm, p=0.07) compared with Caucasians, but similar CAC. Multivariate analysis included risk factor variables significantly different between the racial groups and associated with plaque: blood pressure, current corticosteroid use, SLE disease activity and damage. All factors contributed, but no individual risk factor fully accounted for the association between race and plaque.
In conclusion, the presence of carotid plaque was higher in AA compared with Caucasian women with SLE, in contrast to studies of non-SLE subjects, where AA have similar or less plaque than Caucasians. A combination of SLE-related and traditional CVD risk factors explained the racial difference in plaque burden.