Distribution and correlates of sonographically detected carotid artery disease in the cardiovascular health study

Daniel H. O'Leary, Joseph F. Polak, Richard A. Kronmal, Steven J. Kittner, M. Gene Bond, Sidney K. Wolfson, William Bommer, Thomas R. Price, Julius M. Gardin, Peter J. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

768 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: This article describes the prevalence of extracranial carotid atherosclerosis assessed by ultrasonography, its association with risk factors, and its relation to symptomatic coronary disease and stroke in men and women aged ≥65 years. Methods: Maximum percent stenosis, maximum common carotid artery wall thickness, and maximum internal carotid artery wall thickness were assessed using duplex ultrasound in 5,201 men and women aged ≥65 years in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a study of the risk factors and natural history of cardiovascular disease in the elderly. Existing coronary disease and stroke were assessed by physical examination and participant history. Results: Detectable carotid stenosis was present in 75% of men and 62% of women, although the prevalence of ≥50% stenosis was low, 7% in men and 5% in women. Maximum stenosis and maximum wall thickness measurements increased with age and were uniformly greater at all ages in men than in women (p<0.00001). Established risk factors for atherosclerosis (hypertension, smoking, diabetes) and indications of vascular disease (left ventricular hypertrophy, major electrocardiographic abnormality, bruits, and history of heart disease or stroke) related to all three carotid artery measures in the the elderly. Of the three ultrasound measures, the best correlate for a history of coronary disease was maximum internal carotid artery wall thickness. For stroke the best correlate was common carotid artery wall thickness. Multiple logistic regression models of prevalent coronary heart disease and stroke that included the ultrasound findings indicated, after adjustment for age and sex, that maximum internal wall thickness and maximum common carotid wall thickness were significant correlates of both. Maximum stenosis did not add significantly to the correlation. Conclusions: In the elderly the incidence of carotid atherosclerosis was high, although the frequency of severe disease was low. The prevalence and severity of carotid atherosclerosis continued to increase with age even in the late decades of life, and more disease was found in men than in women at all ages. Known risk factors for atherosclerosis continued to relate to carotid abnormalities in the later decades of life, both in symptomatic and asymptomatic subjects. (Stroke. aged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1752-1760
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1992


  • Carotid artery diseases
  • Epidemiology
  • Ultrasonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Neuroscience(all)


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