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Circulation. 2003 Sep 2;108(9):1064-9.

Cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis in young males: ARMY study (Atherosclerosis Risk-Factors in Male Youngsters).

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  • 1Institute for Biomedical Ageing Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria.



Necropsy studies suggest that atherosclerosis begins in childhood, but in vivo confirmation of this concept is sparse and limited to selected population samples. Furthermore, new risk concepts of atherosclerosis focusing on inflammation, infections, and immunity have not yet been evaluated in this age group.


This study was conducted in a sample of 141 17- to 18-year-old white males homogenous in age and sex. In addition to classic risk factors, C-reactive protein and the humoral and cellular immune reactivity to heat-shock proteins (HSPs) were assessed. Intima-media thickness (IMT) was quantified at 4 vessel segments of the carotid and femoral arteries. High IMT was considered to be present if the IMT of at least 1 vessel segment exceeded the 90th percentile. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, cigarette smoking, high diastolic blood pressure, prominent immune reactivity to human and/or mycobacterial HSP60s, alcohol consumption (inverse), and low HDL cholesterol levels were all associated with high IMT. The prevalence of high IMT substantially increased from 0 to 60% when the number of risk conditions in a single individual increased from 0 to 4 (P<0.001 for linear trend).


Our study supports the concept that atherosclerosis begins in the first decades of life and suggests a role of the immune system, especially immunoreactivity against HSP60s, in atherosclerosis of young individuals.

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