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JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Feb 1;2(2):e188023. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8023.

Association Between Self-rated Health, Coronary Artery Calcium Scores, and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

Author information

Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Minneapolis Heart Institute, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, King Abdulaziz Cardiac Center, Ministry of National Guard, Health Affairs, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Cardiology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.



The interplay of self-rated health (SRH), coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores, and cardiovascular risk is poorly described.


To assess the degree of correlation between SRH and CAC, to determine whether these measures are complementary for risk prediction, and to assess the incremental value of the addition of SRH to established risk tools.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is a large population-based prospective cohort study of adults aged 45 to 84 years who were recruited from 6 US communities. A total of 6764 participants without baseline cardiovascular disease (CVD) were included in the analysis. Data were collected from July 2000 through August 2002. Follow-up was completed by December 2013, and data were analyzed from October 2018 to December 2018.


The EVGGFP (excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor) self-assessment of overall health (assessed before the baseline study examination) and CAC score. The EVGGFP rating was categorized as poor/fair, good, very good, or excellent.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Hard coronary heart disease (CHD) events, hard CVD events, and all-cause mortality during a median follow-up of 13.2 years (interquartile range, 12.7-13.7 years).


Among the study population of 6764 participants, the mean (SD) age was 62.1 (10.2) years, and 52.9% were women. The EVGGFP rating was strongly associated with age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational and income levels, healthy diet and physical activity, and cardiovascular risk factors. Despite encapsulating many risk variables, no correlation (r = -0.007; P = .57) or association between EVGGFP and the presence (χ2 = 0.84; P = .84) or severity (χ2 = 4.64; P = .86) of CAC was found. During follow-up, 1161 deaths, 637 hard CVD events, and 405 hard CHD events were recorded. In models adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and CAC, participants who reported excellent health had a 45% lower risk of CVD (hazard ratio [HR], 0.55; 95% CI, 0.39-0.77) and a 42% lower risk of CHD (HR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.37-0.90) compared with those who reported poor/fair health. Participants in the excellent SRH category who had any CAC had markedly elevated risk of hard CHD (HR, 6.19; 95% CI, 2.1-18.3) and CVD (HR, 6.50; 95% CI, 2.7-15.6) events compared with those with a CAC score of 0. The addition of the EVGGFP rating to CAC improved the area under the curve (C statistic) for CHD events (0.725 vs 0.734; P = .007), CVD events (0.693 vs 0.706; P < .001), and all-cause mortality (0.685 vs 0.707; P < .001). However, the addition of the EVGGFP rating to the combination of CAC and atherosclerotic CVD risk score did not significantly improve C statistics for CHD events (0.751 vs 0.753; P = .39), CVD events (0.739 vs 0.741; P = .18), or all-cause mortality (0.779 vs 0.781; P = .13).

Conclusions and Relevance:

Although SRH and CAC integrate many risk variables, this study suggests that they are poorly correlated and have complementary predictive utility. A perception of excellent health does not obviate the need for definitive assessment of CVD risk, whereas fair/poor perceived health may serve as a risk enhancer, arguing for advanced risk assessment in selected clinical scenarios.

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