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Impact of coronary artery calcium on coronary heart disease events in individuals at the extremes of traditional risk factor burden: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Michael G. Silverman, Michael J. Blaha, Harlan M. Krumholz, Matthew J. Budoff, Ron Blankstein, Christopher T. Sibley, Arthur Agatston, Roger S. Blumenthal, Khurram Nasir
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/eht508 First published online: 23 December 2013

Abstract

Aims We sought to evaluate the impact of coronary artery calcium (CAC) in individuals at the extremes of risk factor (RF) burden.

Methods and results 6698 individuals from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) were followed for coronary heart disease (CHD) events over mean 7.1 ± 1 years. Annualized CHD event rates were compared among each RF category (0, 1, 2, or ≥3) after stratification by CAC score (0, 1–100, 101–300, and >300). The following traditional modifiable RFs were considered: cigarette smoking, LDL cholesterol ≥3.4 mmol/L, low HDL cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. There were 1067 subjects (16%) with 0 RFs, whereas 1205 (18%) had ≥3 RFs. Among individuals with 0 RFs, 68% had CAC 0, whereas 12 and 5% had CAC >100 and >300, respectively. Among individuals with ≥3 RFs, 35% had CAC 0, whereas 34 and 19% had CAC >100 and >300, respectively. Overall, 339 (5.1%) CHD events occurred. Individuals with 0 RFs and CAC >300 had an event rate 3.5 times higher than individuals with ≥3 RFs and CAC 0 (10.9/1000 vs. 3.1/1000 person-years). Similar results were seen across categories of Framingham risk score.

Conclusion Among individuals at the extremes of RF burden, the distribution of CAC is heterogeneous. The presence of a high CAC burden, even among individuals without RFs, is associated with an elevated event rate, whereas the absence of CAC, even among those with many RF, is associated with a low event rate. Coronary artery calcium has the potential to further risk stratify asymptomatic individuals at the extremes of RF burden.

  • Coronary artery calcium
  • Risk factors
  • Coronary heart disease
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