Distributions of Subclinical Cardiovascular Disease in a Socioeconomically and Racially Diverse Sample

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Background and Purpose—

Differential subgroup vulnerability to subclinical cardiovascular disease is likely, and yet few, if any, studies have addressed interactive relations of age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status (SES) to these conditions to examine nuances of known health disparities. We examined distributions of carotid atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness in a socioeconomically diverse, biracial, urban sample.


Participants (n=2270) in the population-based HANDLS study (Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity Across the Life Span; 30–64 years old, 44% men, 57% African American, 39% with household income <125% federal poverty threshold) underwent carotid intimal medial thickness (IMT) and pulse wave velocity assessment.


In cross-sectional hierarchical regression analyses, interactive race×SES effects were identified for IMT and pulse wave velocity, such that high SES African Americans had significantly thicker IMTs and faster pulse wave velocities than all other subgroups (ie, low SES African Americans, low SES whites, and high SES whites). A race×sex effect was also identified for IMT, such that the IMT discrepancy between white men and women was more pronounced than the discrepancy between African American men and women. Finally, an SES×sex effect indicated that while IMTs of high SES and low SES men did not significantly differ, high SES women had marginally thicker IMTs than low SES women.


High SES African Americans may be particularly vulnerable to subclinical cardiovascular diseases, placing them at enhanced risk for clinical cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. These findings suggest that male sex, low SES, and African American ancestry may represent imprecise generalizations as risk factors for subclinical cardiovascular disease.

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