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Am J Cardiol. 2013 Sep 15;112(6):747-52. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2013.05.002. Epub 2013 Jun 3.

Relation of subclinical coronary artery atherosclerosis to cerebral white matter disease in healthy subjects from families with early-onset coronary artery disease.

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Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins GeneSTAR Research Program, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, USA.


White matter disease (WMD) of the brain is associated with incident stroke. Similarly, subclinical calcified coronary artery plaque has been associated with incident coronary artery disease (CAD) events. Although atherogenesis in both vascular beds may share some common mechanisms, the extent to which subclinical CAD is associated with WMD across age ranges in subjects with a family history of early-onset CAD remains unknown. We screened 405 apparently healthy participants in the Genetic Study of Atherosclerotic Risk for CAD risk factors and for the presence of noncalcified and calcified coronary plaque using dual-source multidetector cardiac computed tomographic angiography. The presence and volumes of WMD were assessed by 3-Tesla brain magnetic resonance imaging. Participants were 60% women, 36% African-American, mean age 51.6 ± 10.6 years. The overall prevalence of coronary plaque was 43.0%. Subjects with coronary plaque had significantly greater WMD volumes (median 1,222 mm³, interquartile range 448 to 3,871) compared with those without coronary plaque (median 551 mm³, interquartile range 105 to 1,523, p <0.001). In multivariate regression analysis, adjusting for age, gender, race, traditional risk factors, total brain volume, and intrafamilial correlations, the presence of coronary plaque was independently associated with WMD volume (p = 0.05). This study shows a significant association between WMD and noncalcified and calcified coronary plaque in healthy subjects, independent of age and risk factors. In conclusion, these findings support the premise of possible shared causal pathways in 2 vascular beds in families at increased risk for early-onset vascular disease.

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