Background: Atherosclerosis is a chronic progressive disease often presenting as clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) events. This study evaluated the characteristics of individuals with a diagnosis of atherosclerosis and estimated the incidence of CVD events to assist in the early identification of high-risk individuals.
Methods: Respondents to the US SHIELD baseline survey were followed for 2 years to observe incident self-reported CVD. Respondents had subclinical atherosclerosis if they reported a diagnosis of narrow or blocked arteries/carotid artery disease without a past clinical CVD event (heart attack, stroke or revascularization). Characteristics of those with atherosclerosis and incident CVD were compared with those who did not report atherosclerosis at baseline but had CVD in the following 2 years using chi-square tests. Logistic regression model identified characteristics associated with atherosclerosis and incident events.
Results: Of 17,640 respondents, 488 (2.8%) reported having subclinical atherosclerosis at baseline. Subclinical atherosclerosis was associated with age, male gender, dyslipidemia, circulation problems, hypertension, past smoker, and a cholesterol test in past year (OR = 2.2) [all p < 0.05]. Incident CVD was twice as high in respondents with subclinical atherosclerosis (25.8%) as in those without atherosclerosis or clinical CVD (12.2%). In individuals with subclinical atherosclerosis, men (RR = 1.77, p = 0.050) and individuals with circulation problems (RR = 2.36, p = 0.003) were at greatest risk of experiencing CVD events in the next 2 years.
Conclusion: Self-report of subclinical atherosclerosis identified an extremely high-risk group with a >25% risk of a CVD event in the next 2 years. These characteristics may be useful for identifying individuals for more aggressive diagnostic and therapeutic efforts.