Data are limited on the presence, distribution, and extent of subclinical atherosclerosis in middle-aged populations.
METHODS AND RESULTS:
The PESA (Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis) study prospectively enrolled 4184 asymptomatic participants 40 to 54 years of age (mean age, 45.8 years; 63% male) to evaluate the systemic extent of atherosclerosis in the carotid, abdominal aortic, and iliofemoral territories by 2-/3-dimensional ultrasound and coronary artery calcification by computed tomography. The extent of subclinical atherosclerosis, defined as presence of plaque or coronary artery calcification ?1, was classified as focal (1 site affected), intermediate (2-3 sites), or generalized (4-6 sites) after exploration of each vascular site (right/left carotids, aorta, right/left iliofemorals, and coronary arteries). Subclinical atherosclerosis was present in 63% of participants (71% of men, 48% of women). Intermediate and generalized atherosclerosis was identified in 41%. Plaques were most common in the iliofemorals (44%), followed by the carotids (31%) and aorta (25%), whereas coronary artery calcification was present in 18%. Among participants with low Framingham Heart Study (FHS) 10-year risk, subclinical disease was detected in 58%, with intermediate or generalized disease in 36%. When longer-term risk was assessed (30-year FHS), 83% of participants at high risk had atherosclerosis, with 66% classified as intermediate or generalized.
Subclinical atherosclerosis was highly prevalent in this middle-aged cohort, with nearly half of the participants classified as having intermediate or generalized disease. Most participants at high FHS risk had subclinical disease; however, extensive atherosclerosiswas also present in a substantial number of low-risk individuals, suggesting added value of imaging for diagnosis and prevention.
CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION:
URL: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifier: .