Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. We aimed to determine whether overweight (defined as a body mass index [BMI] > 25 kg/m2) contributed to subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE patients at low risk for CVD according to traditional factors.
Wall thickness of the internal carotid artery (ICWT) measured at the carotid bulb and carotid plaques were assessed in 49 SLE patients asymptomatic for CVD and 49 controls matched on Framingham score. Factors associated to ICWT were identified and multivariate analysis was performed.
SLE patients and controls displayed a low 10-year risk for CVD according to Framingham score (mean 1.9 ± 3.5 in SLE vs 1.8 ± 3.2% in controls, P = 0.37). ICWT (P < 0.001) and number of patients with carotid plaques (P = 0.015) were, however, higher in SLE patients as compared to controls. In multivariable analysis, SLE was an independent risk for a carotid atherosclerosis (OR [95% confidence interval, CI]: 3.53 [1.36–9.14]; P = 0.009). Older age, higher BMI, and higher Framingham score were associated with atherosclerosis in SLE patients in univariate analysis. In multivariate analysis, only the association with overweight remained significant (OR [95% CI]: 4.13 [1.02–16.75]; P = 0.047).
Overweight is a major contributor to atherosclerosis in SLE patients at apparent low risk for CVD.