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1.  Associations of Carotid Artery Intima-Media Thickness (IMT) With Risk Factors and Prevalent Cardiovascular Disease 
The goal of this study was to compare internal carotid artery (ICA) intima-media thickness (IMT) with common carotid artery (CCA) IMT as global markers of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Cross-sectional measurements of the mean CCA IMT and maximum ICA IMT were made on ultrasound images acquired from the Framingham Offspring cohort (n = 3316; mean age, 58 years; 52.7% women). Linear regression models were used to study the associations of the Framingham risk factors with CCA and ICA IMT. Multivariate logistic regression models and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis were used to compare the associations of prevalent CVD with CCA and ICA IMT and determine sensitivity and specificity.
The association between age and the mean CCA IMT corresponded to an increase of 0.007 mm/y; the increase was 0.037 mm/y for the ICA IMT. Framingham risk factors accounted for 28.6% and 27.5% of the variability in the CCA and ICA IMT, respectively. Age and gender contributed 23.5% to the variability of the CCA IMT and 22.5% to that of the ICA IMT, with the next most important factor being systolic blood pressure (1.9%) for the CCA IMT and smoking (1.6%) for the ICA IMT. The CCA IMT and ICA IMT were statistically significant predictors of prevalent CVD, with the ICA IMT having a larger area under the ROC curve (0.756 versus 0.695).
Associations of risk factors with CCA and ICA IMT are slightly different, and both are independently associated with prevalent CVD. Their value for predicting incident cardiovascular events needs to be compared in outcome studies.
PMCID: PMC3186063  PMID: 21098848
atherosclerosis; carotid artery; disease prevalence; intima-media thickness; risk factors
2.  Pericardial Fat is Associated with Carotid Stiffness in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 
Background and Aims
Arterial stiffness is a prominent feature of vascular aging and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Fat around the heart and blood vessels (i.e. pericardial fat, Pfat) may contribute to arterial stiffness via a local paracrine effect of adipose tissue on the surrounding vasculature. Thus, we determined the association between Pfat and carotid stiffness in 5,770 participants (mean age 62 yrs, 53% female, 25% African American, 24% Hispanic, and 13% Chinese) from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
Methods and Results
Pfat was measured by computed tomography, and ultrasonography of the common carotid artery was used to calculate the distensibility coefficient (DC) and young’s modulus (YM). Lower DC and higher YM values indicate stiffer arteries. Pfat quartile was highly associated with demographic, behavioral, anthropometric, hemodynamic, metabolic, and disease variables in both men and women. After adjusting for height, clinical site, CVD risk factors, and medications, a 1-standard deviation (41.91 cm3) increment in Pfat was associated with a 0.00007±0.00002 1/mmHg lower DC (p=0.0002) in men and a 48.1±15.1 mmHg/mm higher YM in women (p=0.002). Additional adjustment for C-reactive protein, coronary artery calcification, and carotid intima-media thickness had only modest effects. More importantly, adjusting for body mass index and waist circumference did not significantly change the overall results.
Higher Pfat is associated with higher carotid stiffness, independent of traditional CVD risk factors and obesity.
PMCID: PMC2929306  PMID: 20153618
pericardial fat; arterial stiffness; distensibility; carotid artery
3.  Segment-specific association between plasma homocysteine and carotid artery intima-media thickness in the Framingham Heart Study 
Higher plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) is an established risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The relation between tHcy and carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT) at the internal carotid artery (ICA)/bulb-IMT and common carotid artery (CCA)-IMT has not been systematically examined. Since the ICA/bulb segment is more prone to plaque formation than the CCA segment, differential associations with tHcy at these sites might suggest mechanisms of tHcy action.
We examined the cross-sectional segment-specific relations of tHcy to ICA/bulb-IMT and CCA-IMT in 2,499 participants from the Framingham Offspring Study, free of cardiovascular disease.
In multivariable linear regression analysis, ICA/bulb-IMT was significantly higher in the fourth tHcy quartile category compared to the other quartile categories, in both the age- and sex-adjusted and in the multivariable-adjusted model (P for trend <0.0001 and <0.01, respectively). We observed a significant age by tHcy interaction for ICA/bulb-IMT (P=0.03) and therefore stratified the analyses by median age (58 years). There was a significant positive trend between tHcy and ICA/bulb-IMT in individuals 58 years of age or older (P-trend <0.01), but not in the younger individuals (P-trend=0.24). For CCA-IMT, no significant trends were observed in any of the analyses.
The segment-specific association between elevated tHcy levels and ICA/bulb-IMT suggests an association between tHcy and plaque formation.
PMCID: PMC3011043  PMID: 20580253
carotid artery; intima-media thickness; homocysteine; atherosclerosis; Framingham Offspring Study
4.  Markers of Atherosclerosis and Inflammation and Mortality in Patients with HIV Infection 
Atherosclerosis  2010;214(2):468-473.
HIV-infected patients are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, which may be mediated in part by inflammation. Surrogate marker studies suggest an increased prevalence of vascular abnormalities in HIV infection. We examined the association of all-cause mortality in HIV-infected patients with carotid artery intima-media thickness (cIMT) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP).
Design and Methods
Baseline risk factors, cIMT and hsCRP were prospectively measured in 327 HIV-infected participants. Follow-up time with median of 3.1 years was calculated from baseline to death or censored dated 7/31/07. Cox Proportional Hazards models were used to study risk factors associated with mortality.
Thirty eight (11.6 %) of participants have died since study enrollment. CIMT was significantly higher in those who died and decedents were significantly more likely to have cIMT above the 75th percentile. Those who died had higher hsCRP than those alive and more had hsCRP values above 3 mg/L. CD4 count was lower and log10 viral load was higher in decedents, but antiretroviral regimens were similar in both groups. CIMT and hsCRP levels were significantly associated with mortality (HR=2.74, 95% CI 1.26 to 5.97, p=0.01; HR=2.38, 95% CI 1.15 to 4.9, p=0.02).
Our study demonstrated a strong association of carotid IMT and hsCRP with all-cause death in this HIV-infected population despite being similar with respect to exposure to antiretroviral medications. Together these surrogate markers may be indices of chronic inflammation and unfavorable outcomes in HIV-positive patients.
PMCID: PMC3034311  PMID: 21130995
5.  Cardiovascular Imaging for Assessing Cardiovascular Risk in Asymptomatic Men Versus Women 
Coronary artery calcium (CAC), carotid intima-media thickness, and left ventricular (LV) mass and geometry offer the potential to characterize incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in clinically asymptomatic individuals. The objective of the study was to compare these cardiovascular imaging measures for their overall and sex-specific ability to predict CVD.
Methods and Results
The study sample consisted of 4965 Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis participants (48% men; mean age, 62±10 years). They were free of CVD at baseline and were followed for a median of 5.8 years. There were 297 CVD events, including 187 coronary heart disease (CHD) events, 65 strokes, and 91 heart failure (HF) events. CAC was most strongly associated with CHD (hazard ratio [HR], 2.3 per 1 SD; 95% CI, 1.9 to 2.8) and all CVD events (HR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.5 to 1.9). Most strongly associated with stroke were LV mass (HR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.7) and LV mass/volume ratio (HR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.6). LV mass showed the strongest association with HF (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.6 to 2.1). There were no significant interactions for imaging measures with sex and ethnicity for any CVD outcome. Compared with traditional risk factors alone, overall risk prediction (C statistic) for future CHD, HF, and all CVD was significantly improved by adding CAC, LV mass, and CAC, respectively (all P<0.05).
There was no evidence that imaging measures differed in association with incident CVD by sex. CAC was most strongly associated with CHD and CVD; LV mass and LV concentric remodeling best predicted stroke; and LV mass best predicted HF.
PMCID: PMC3037859  PMID: 21068189
imaging; cardiovascular diseases; sex
6.  Associations of antiretroviral drug use and HIV-specific risk factors with carotid intima–media thickness 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(14):2201-2209.
Previous research has demonstrated an increase in carotid intima–media thickness (cIMT) in HIV-infected individuals compared to controls. However, the reason for this increased level of subclinical vascular disease is unknown.
To identify HIV-related risk factors for increased cIMT.
We evaluated the relationship between HIV-related characteristics (including markers of HIV disease severity and use of antiretroviral therapy) and cIMT measurements in the internal/bulb and common carotid regions among 538 HIV-infected participants from the Study of Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM). We used Bayesian model averaging to estimate the posterior probability of candidate HIV and non-HIV-related risk factors being true predictors of increased cIMT. Variables with a posterior probability of more than 50% were used to develop a selected regression model for each of the anatomic regions.
For common cIMT, the Bayesian model selection process identified age, African-American race, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure with probability more than 95%, HDL cholesterol with probability 85% and Hispanic ethnicity with probability 51%. Among the HIV-related factors included in the analysis, only tenofovir use was selected (51% probability). In the selected model, duration of tenofovir use was associated with lower common cIMT (−0.0094 mm/year of use; 95% confidence interval: −0.0177 to −0.0010). For internal cIMT, no HIV-related risk factors were above the 50% posterior probability threshold.
We observed an inverse association between duration of tenofovir use and common carotid cIMT. Whether this association is causal or due to confounding by indication needs further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3224487  PMID: 20671544
atherosclerosis; carotid intima–media thickness; HIV; tenofovir
Hypertension  2010;55(5):1210-1216.
Hypertension is associated with impaired endothelial function in cross-sectional studies. However, few longitudinal data exist on whether endothelial dysfunction precedes the development of hypertension. We examined the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between endothelial-dependent brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and hypertension prevalence and incidence in 3,500 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), an ethnically diverse, community-based cohort study. At baseline, the prevalence ratios (95% CI) of hypertension from the highest to the lowest quartile of FMD were 1.00 (referent), 1.26 (1.12 – 1.40), 1.35 (1.21 – 1.52), and 1.68 (1.50 – 1.87) (linear trend P < 0.001). This association remained (P = 0.017) after adjustment for demographics (age, gender, ethnicity), MESA site, and other risk factors. Of the 1,869 participants without hypertension at baseline, 584 (31.3%) developed hypertension over a median follow-up of 4.8 years. The unadjusted relative risks (95% CI) of incident hypertension from the highest to the lowest quartile of FMD were 1.00 (referent), 1.38 (1.14 – 1.67), 1.44 (1.19 – 1.74), and 1.64 (1.36 – 1.97) (linear trend P < 0.001). However, after adjustment for demographics and MESA site, the relationship between FMD and incident hypertension was attenuated and not statistically significant: 1.00 (referent), 1.26 (1.04 – 1.52), 1.19 (0.98 – 1.44), and 1.18 (0.97 – 1.44). The longitudinal results also did not appreciably change after adjustment for additional risk factors and baseline blood pressure levels. In this sample, reduced FMD was not an independent predictor of hypertension incidence, suggesting that impaired endothelial function does not play a major role in the development of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2896877  PMID: 20308612
hypertension; blood pressure; endothelium; atherosclerosis; epidemiology
8.  Associations of occupation, job control and job demands with intima-media thickness: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Occupation has been linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence and mortality, but few studies have investigated occupation in relation to early atherosclerotic disease. This study examined associations between various occupational characteristics and carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT) in a multi-ethnic sample.
The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) recruited 6814 adults aged 45e84 years and free of clinical CVD (response rate 60%, 51% female). Questionnaire data were used to determine occupational group (managerial/professional, sales/office, service, blue-collar), psychosocial job characteristics (ie, job demands, job control) and other sociodemographic information.
Common carotid artery (CCA)-IMT was greater for blue-collar jobs than for management/professional jobs (mean difference=0.012 mm, p=0.049) after adjustment for age, sex, race, place of birth (US or foreign born) and CVD risk factors. Compared to management/professional jobs, internal carotid artery (ICA)-IMT was greater for sales/office, service and blue-collar jobs (mean difference=0.071 mm, p<0.001; 0.057 mm, p=0.009; and 0.110 mm, p<0.001, respectively) after adjustment for age, sex, race and place of birth. The difference between blue-collar jobs and management/professional jobs remained significant after additional adjustment for CVD risk factors, income and education (mean difference=0.048 mm, p=0.045). Higher levels of control at work were associated with thinner CCA-IMT (mean difference=‒0.009 mm, p=0.016, adjusted for age, sex, race and place of birth) but not with ICA-IMT. Job demands had no significant association with IMT.
Blue-collar jobs and low levels of job control were associated with the development of subclinical atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3073024  PMID: 20935285
9.  A Genome-wide Association Study of Carotid Atherosclerosis in HIV-infected Men 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(4):583-592.
The role of host genetics in the development of subclinical atherosclerosis in the context of HIV infected persons who are being treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is not well understood.
The present genome-wide association study (GWAS) is based on 177 HIV-positive Caucasian males receiving HAART who participated in the Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV Infection (FRAM) Study. Common and internal carotid intima-media thicknesses (cIMT) measured by B-mode ultrasound were used as a subclinical measure of atherosclerosis. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were assayed using the Illumina HumanCNV370-quad beadchip. Copy Number Variants (CNV) were inferred using a hidden Markov Model (PennCNV). Regression analyses were used to assess the association of common and internal cIMT with individual SNPs and CNVs, adjusting for age, duration of antiretroviral treatment, and principal components to account for potential population stratification.
Two SNPs in tight linkage disequilibrium, rs2229116 (a missense, nonsynonymous polymorphism (IIe to Val)) and rs7177922, located in the Ryanodine receptor (RYR3) gene on chromosome 15 were significantly associated with common cIMT (p-value<1.61×10−7). The RYR gene family has been known to play a role in the etiology of cardiovascular disease and has been shown to be regulated by HIV TAT protein.
These results suggest that in the context of HIV infection and HAART, a functional SNP in a biologically plausible candidate gene, RYR3, is associated with increased common carotid IMT, which is a surrogate for atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3072760  PMID: 20009918
HIV; HAART; atherosclerosis; GWAS; intima-media thickness
10.  Association Between Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and Pericardial Fat in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) is a sub-clinical marker of atherosclerosis and a strong predictor of stroke. Pericardial fat (PF), the fat depot around the heart, has been associated with several atherosclerosis risk factors. We sought to examine the association between carotid IMT and PF, and to examine whether such an association is independent from common atherosclerosis risk factors including measures of overall adiposity.
Unadjusted and multivariable adjusted linear regression analysis was used to examine associations between common (CCA-IMT) and internal (ICA-IMT) carotid IMT with PF in a random sample of 996 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who underwent carotid ultrasound and chest CT at baseline examination.
A significant positive correlation was observed between PF and CCA-IMT (r =0.27, P<0.0001) and ICA-IMT (r =0.17, P<0.0001). In an unadjusted sex-specific linear regression analysis, there was a significant association between PF (1-SD difference) and CCA-IMT (mm) in both women (β coefficient (95% CI): 0.06 (0.04, 0.08), P<0.0001) and men (0.03 (0.01, 0.05), P<0.0002), an association that persisted after further adjusting for age and ethnicity (0.02 (+0.00, 0.04), P=0.0120 for women, and 0.02 (+0.00, 0.03), P=0.0208 for men). However, after additional adjustment for atherosclerosis risk factors and either BMI or waist circumference, these relations were no longer significant in either sex. In similar analyses, PF was significantly associated with ICA-IMT in both men (0.11 (0.06, 0.15), P<0.0001) and women (0.08 (0.02, 0.13), P=041). These relations were no longer significant in women in multivariable adjusted models, but persisted in men in all models except after adjusting for age, ethnicity and waist circumference.
In the general population PF is associated with carotid IMT, an association that possibly not independent from markers of overall adiposity or common atherosclerosis risk factors.
PMCID: PMC2817960  PMID: 20123228

Results 1-10 (10)