Relation of Carotid Artery Wall Thickness to Diabetes Mellitus, Fasting Glucose and Insulin, Body Size, and Physical Activity

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Background and Purpose

We tested the hypothesis that body mass, waist-to-hip circumference ratio, physical inactivity, diabetes, hyperglycemia, and fasting insulin are each positively associated with asymptomatic carotid artery wall thickness.


Average intimal-medial carotid wall thickness (an indicator of atherosclerosis) was measured noninvasively by B-mode ultrasonography in cross-sectional samples of 45- to 64-year-old adults, both blacks and whites, free of symptomatic cardiovascular disease, in four US communities.


Sample mean carotid wall thickness was approximately 0.7 mm in women (n=7956) and 0.8 mm in men (n=6474). Body mass, waist-to-hip ratio, work physical activity, diabetes, and fasting insulin were associated (P < .05) with carotid wall thickness in the hypothesized direction. Adjusted for age, race, smoking, body mass index, artery depth, and Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities field center, mean wall thickness was greater by 0.02 mm in women and 0.03 mm in men for a 0.07-unit (one SD) larger waist-to-hip ratio. Adjusted mean wall thickness was about 0.07 mm thicker in participants with diabetes mellitus and 0.02 mm thicker in participants with hyperglycemia (fasting glucose 6.4 to 7.7 mmol/L) than in subjects with fasting glucose <6.4 mmol/L. Adjusted mean wall thickness increased by about 0.02 mm with an increase of 100 mmol/L in fasting serum insulin.


Abdominal adiposity, physical inactivity, and abnormal glucose metabolism are associated positively with carotid intimal-medial wall thickness, suggesting these factors contribute to atherogenesis.

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