The metabolic syndrome and diabetes mellitus as predictors of thoracic aortic calcification as detected by non-contrast computed tomography in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

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The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a clustering of low levels of HDL cholesterol, hyperglycaemia, high waist circumference, hypertension and elevated triglycerides, and is associated with cardiovascular disease. Calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the thoracic aorta (TAC), measured by non-contrast cardiac computed tomography (CT) scans, is a marker for atherosclerosis and relates to mortality. We sought to evaluate the independent association of MetS and TAC on cardiac CT scans.


We examined the relation of the MetS, and each of its components, to the prevalence of TAC, measured from 2000 to 2002 in 6778 white, Chinese, African-American and Hispanic participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).


Adjusting for age, gender, race, smoking, LDL cholesterol and lipid-lowering medications, relative risks and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for a TAC score > 0 were: 1.19 (95% CI 1.11 to 1.28) for participants with MetS, 1.34 (95% CI 1.21 to 1.49) for those with diabetes and MetS, and 1.33 (95% CI 1.11, 1.58) for those with diabetes and no MetS compared with participants who were free of the MetS and diabetes. Associations were found for most of the components of the MetS with TAC.


We conclude that in adults without known heart disease, the MetS, most of its components and diabetes are associated with a higher prevalence of calcified atherosclerotic plaque in the thoracic arteries in a multi-ethnic population of men and women.

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