Distribution of coronary artery calcium by race, gender, and age: results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Circulation. 2006 Jan 3;113(1):30-7. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.580696. Epub 2005 Dec 19.


Background: Coronary artery calcium (CAC) has been demonstrated to be associated with the risk of coronary heart disease. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) provides a unique opportunity to examine the distribution of CAC on the basis of age, gender, and race/ethnicity in a cohort free of clinical cardiovascular disease and treated diabetes.

Methods and results: MESA is a prospective cohort study designed to investigate subclinical cardiovascular disease in a multiethnic cohort free of clinical cardiovascular disease. The percentiles of the CAC distribution were estimated with nonparametric techniques. Treated diabetics were excluded from analysis. There were 6110 included in the analysis, with 53% female and an average age of 62 years. Men had greater calcium levels than women, and calcium amount and prevalence were steadily higher with increasing age. There were significant differences in calcium by race, and these associations differed across age and gender. For women, whites had the highest percentiles and Hispanics generally had the lowest; in the oldest age group, however, Chinese women had the lowest values. Overall, Chinese and black women were intermediate, with their order dependent on age. For men, whites consistently had the highest percentiles, and Hispanics had the second highest. Blacks were lowest at the younger ages, and Chinese were lowest at the older ages. At the MESA public website (http://www.mesa-nhlbi.org), an interactive form allows one to enter an age, gender, race/ethnicity, and CAC score to obtain a corresponding estimated percentile.

Conclusions: The information provided here can be used to examine whether a patient has a high CAC score relative to others with the same age, gender, and race/ethnicity who do not have clinical cardiovascular disease or treated diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Calcium / analysis*
  • Calcium / standards
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Coronary Vessels / chemistry*
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racial Groups
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistical Distributions
  • Tomography


  • Calcium