Objective: Shorter leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) and increased mortality. We examined the association of LTL with coronary artery calcification (CAC), which reflects the cumulative burden of coronary atherosclerosis, in an urban Arab sample of Palestinians, a population at high risk of CHD.
Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, a random sample of East Jerusalem residents, comprising 250 men aged 45-77 and women aged 55-76 and free of CHD or past stroke, was drawn from the Israel national population register. LTL was measured by Southern blots. CAC was determined by 16-slice multidetector helical CT scanning using Agatston scoring. We applied multivariable logistic modeling to examine the association between sex-specific tertiles of LTL and CAC (comparing scores >100 vs. <100, and the upper third vs. the lower 2 thirds), controlling for age, sex, education and coronary risk factors.
Results: CAC, evident in 65% of men and 52% of women, was strongly associated with age (sex-adjusted Spearman's rho 0.495). The multivariable-adjusted odds ratios for CAC >100 (found in 30% of men and 29% of women) were 2.92 (95% CI 1.28-6.68) and 2.29 (0.99-5.30) for the lower and mid-tertiles of LTL vs. the upper tertile, respectively (Ptrend = 0.008). Findings were similar for CAC scores in the upper tertile (Ptrend = 0.006), and persisted after the exclusion of patients with diabetes or receiving statins.
Conclusions: Shorter LTL was associated with a greater prevalence of asymptomatic coronary atherosclerosis in an urban Arab population-based sample. Mechanisms underlying this association should be sought.
Keywords: Arabs; Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery calcification; Leukocyte telomere length; Palestinians.
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