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Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Nov;38(11):1397-402. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.29. Epub 2014 Feb 14.

Periaortic fat and cardiovascular risk: a comparison of high-risk older adults and age-matched healthy controls.

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Section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
Department of Biostatistical Sciences, Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
Section on Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.



Fat accumulation around the heart and aorta may impact cardiovascular (CV) health. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic investigation to examine potential associations of these fat depots with risk factors for CV events, which has not been done before.


Pericardial fat, periaortic fat around the ascending aorta (AA), descending aorta (DA) and aortic arch, and abdominal subcutaneous and visceral fat were measured by MRI in older adults with (n = 385, 69 ± 8 years, 52% female) and without (n = 50, 69 ± 8 years, 58% female) risk factors for a CV event.


Individuals with CV risk factors exhibited greater fat volumes across all fat depots compared with those without risk factors. In analysis of covariance accounting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, smoking and body mass index (BMI), individuals with risk factors possessed higher epicardial, pericardial, AA, DA and abdominal visceral fat (P < 0.05). When matched one-to-one on age, gender, race/ethnicity and BMI, AA and DA fat were higher in those with versus without CV risk factors (P < 0.01).


Older adults with a high risk for CV events have greater periaortic fat than low-risk adults, even after accounting for BMI. More studies are needed to determine whether greater periaortic fat predicts future CV events.

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