Defining normal distributions of coronary artery calcium in women and men (from the Framingham Heart Study)

Am J Cardiol. 2008 Nov 1;102(9):1136-41, 1141.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2008.06.038. Epub 2008 Aug 20.


Coronary artery calcium (CAC) may improve risk stratification for patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) beyond traditional risk factors. Subjects from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring and Third Generation cohorts (48% women; mean age 53 years) underwent noncontrast electrocardiographically triggered cardiac multidetector computed tomography. The prevalence of absolute CAC (Agatston score [AS] >0, >100, and >400) and relative age- and gender-specific strata (25th, 50th, 75th, 90th, and 95th percentiles) were determined in a healthy subset free of clinically apparent cardiovascular disease or CHD risk factors (n = 1,586), the overall sample at risk (n = 3,238), and subjects at intermediate Framingham risk score (FRS; 6% to 20% 10-year CHD event risk; n = 1,177). Absolute AS and relative cutoffs for CAC increased with age and FRS, were higher in men compared with women in each of the 3 cohorts, and increased from the healthy subset to the overall cohort to subjects at intermediate risk. However, in subjects with CAC, there was substantial disagreement between absolute and relative cut-off values for labeling subjects as having increased CAC. In general, more subjects were considered to have increased CAC using relative cut-off values, especially in women and younger subjects. Fewer subjects at intermediate FRS had increased CAC using comparable absolute versus relative cutoffs (men 32% at AS >100 vs 36% at >75th percentile; women 24% at AS >100 vs 34% at >75th percentile). In conclusion, we provided distributions of CAC in a healthy subset, the overall cohort, and subjects at intermediate risk from the Framingham Heart Study for both absolute and relative cut-off values for CAC. Absolute cutoffs underestimated the proportion of subjects with increased CAC, specifically in women, younger persons, and persons at intermediate CHD risk.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism*
  • Electrocardiography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Calcium