Are your arteries older than your age?Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg 2005; 30(6):588-96EJ
To determine the effect of age and atherosclerotic risk factors on the carotid intima-media layer thickness and morphology characteristics.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
Three groups of subjects were included in the study: Individuals with atherosclerotic risk factors including a family history of CHD, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and/or smoking (group A, n=180), age- and sex-matched healthy subjects without risk factors (group B, n=60) and a group of significantly younger volunteers (group C, n=25). The carotid artery was imaged longitudinally with B-mode ultrasound. Intima media thickness (IMT) was measured in the common (CCA) and internal carotid (ICA) arteries. Surface irregularity and continuity of the intima-media layer (IML) were assessed by high definition imaging. Echogenicity of the wall was quantified using Adobe Photoshop. The presence of calcium deposits was recorded. The double line wall pattern seen in young healthy people was used as a control to assess patterns and texture of the carotid IML. Fifteen subjects had their measurements repeated for intraobserver variability.
IMT measurements were reproducible in both the CCA and ICA (coefficient of variation 6% and 9%). IMT increased linearly with age (adjusted R(2)=0.72, p<0.0001), which was also an independent risk factor for increased IMT. All the risk factors had a significant association with increased IMT. In the lowest (third) decade the wall/blood interface was smooth and the double line was visualized with an echolucent center. With increased age and number of risk factors present, the wall/blood interface became more irregular (p<0.01), the double line was distorted (p<0.01) and the IML was more echogenic (p<0.01). The increase in IMT and the changes in the echogenicity of the IML were more pronounced in the ICA.
Age is an independent risk factor for increased IMT. Atherosclerotic risk factors are associated with the age-related changes seen in the IML. Such changes are also seen in younger asymptomatic volunteers with risk factors indicating that their arteries are older than their age.