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Diabetes. 2001 Apr;50(4):861-6.

Familial aggregation of coronary artery calcium in families with type 2 diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1063, USA.


Type 2 diabetes is widely recognized as a major risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, including subclinical atherosclerosis as measured by noninvasive procedures. However, the role of genetic factors that contribute to various measures of subclinical atherosclerosis is largely unknown. We hypothesize that subclinical atherosclerosis, measured as coronary artery calcification (CAC), will be extensive in individuals with type 2 diabetes and that its presence depends on both genetic and environmental factors. The genetic factors should result in the familial aggregation of CAC. To determine the extent of familial aggregation of CAC in the presence of type 2 diabetes, we studied 122 individuals with type 2 diabetes (mean age 60 years) and 13 individuals without diabetes in 56 families. CAC was measured by fast-gated helical computed tomography. Other measured factors included blood pressure, body size, lipids, HbA1c, and self-reported medical history. To test for an association between CAC and these factors while accounting for the potential familial correlation of CAC, generalized estimating equations were used. CAC was detectable in 80% of individuals with diabetes (median score 84, range 0-5,776). Extent of CAC, adjusted for age, was positively associated with male sex (P = 0.0003), reduced HDL (P = 0.02), albumin-to-creatinine ratio (P = 0.008), and cigarette pack-years (P = 0.03). CAC was also positively associated with a history of angina, myocardial infarction, stroke, and vascular procedures (all P < 0.01). HbA1c and fasting glucose were positively, but nonsignificantly, associated with the extent of CAC (P = 0.14 and 0.08, respectively). CAC, adjusted for age, sex, race, and diabetes status, was heritable (h2 = 0.50; P = 0.009). In multivariate analysis with additional adjustment for HDL, BMI, hypertension, and smoking, h2 = 0.40 (P = 0.038). These results suggest that strong (independent) genetic factors as well as environmental factors contribute to the variance of CAC in individuals with type 2 diabetes. In these data, CAC seems heritable and may serve as an important feature in designing studies to map genes contributing to both atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.

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