Adults with Down syndrome (DS) residing in large institutional settings possess low levels of atherosclerosis. The purpose of this study was to determine whether community-residing adults with DS possess less atherosclerosis than adults without DS. The second purpose was to examine the relation between cardiovascular disease risk factors and intima-media thickness (IMT), a measure of atherosclerosis, in patients with DS. B-mode images of the left common carotid artery were collected to assess IMT in 52 adults with DS and age-, gender-, and race-matched adults without DS (27 women, 25 men; mean age 42 ± 5 years). Total body fat, blood pressure, fasting lipid profiles, insulin, glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, physical activity, and dietary intake were also assessed. Adults with DS possessed lower IMT (0.43 ± 0.07 vs 0.48 ± 0.09 mm, p <0.001), systolic blood pressure (116 ± 15 vs 125 ± 17 mm Hg, p <0.011), and diastolic blood pressure (59 ± 10 vs 73 ± 9 mm Hg, p <0.001) and higher C-reactive protein (0.58 ± 0.55 vs 0.30 ± 0.42 mg/dl, p <0.003), triglycerides (126.5 ± 55.2 vs 103.8 ± 53.2 mg/dl, p <0.048), and total body fat (37.8 ± 10.2% vs 32.4 ± 11.2%, p <0.002) than controls. Male gender (p <0.001) and physical activity (p = 0.020) were identified as predictors of IMT for adults with DS and fasting insulin (p <0.001), age (p <0.001), gender (p <0.001), fruit and vegetable intake (p = 0.001), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (p = 0.004), and smoking (p = 0.023) for controls. In conclusion, community residing adults with DS may be protected against atherosclerosis despite elevated total body fat and elevated cardiovascular disease risk factors. Predictors of IMT differed for patients with DS compared to controls, which indicates that patients with DS possess a unique model of atherogenesis.
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