Background: Lipids, particularly low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL) lipoproteins, are associated with increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, probably due to atherosclerosis. The objective of this cross-sectional analysis was to investigate the relation between blood lipids and carotid plaque.
Methods: As part of a prospective population-based study to determine the incidence and risk factors of stroke in a multiethnic population, we evaluated 1804 participants with lipid measurements and B-mode ultrasound of carotid arteries (mean age 69 +/- 10 years; 40% men; 51% Hispanic, 26% black, 23% white). The association between lipid parameters and carotid plaque was analyzed by multiple logistic regression.
Results: Plaque was present in 61% of participants. Mean total cholesterol was 202 +/- 41 mg/dl. After controlling for other lipid parameters, demographics, and risk factors, the only cholesterol subfraction associated with carotid plaque was LDL (OR per standard deviation (SD) = 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.27). Neither HDL nor triglycerides independently predicted carotid plaque. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB) was also associated with risk of plaque (OR per SD = 1.29, 95% CI 1.03-1.60). Apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-1) was associated with a decrease in multiple plaques (OR per SD = 0.76, 95% CI 0.60-0.97), while lipoprotein a was associated with an increased risk of multiple plaques (OR per SD = 1.31, 95% CI 1.03-1.66). ApoB:ApoA-I had the strongest relation with carotid plaque (OR per SD = 1.35, 95% CI 1.08-1.69).
Conclusions: Among the common lipid parameters, LDL has the strongest relation with carotid plaque. Other lipid precursor proteins such as ApoB and ApoA-I may be stronger predictors of subclinical atherosclerosis, however, and better targets for treatment to reduce plaque formation and risk of cerebrovascular disease.