Objective- Arterial calcification is highly correlated with underlying atherosclerosis. Arterial calcification of the thoracic aorta is evident in many older individuals at high susceptibility to aging-related diseases and non-cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality. In this study, we evaluated the association of thoracic aorta calcification (TAC) with non-CVD morbidity and mortality. Approach and Results- We analyzed data from participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a prospective cohort study of subclinical atherosclerosis, in which participants underwent cardiac computed tomography at baseline and were followed longitudinally for incident CVD events and non-CVD events. Using modified proportional hazards models accounting for the competing risk of CVD death and controlling for demographics, CVD risk factors, coronary artery calcium, and CVD events, we evaluated whether TAC was independently associated with non-CVD morbidity and mortality. Among 6765 participants (mean age, 62 years), 704 non-CVD deaths occurred for a median follow-up of 12.2 years. Compared with no TAC, the highest tertile of TAC volume was associated with a higher risk of non-CVD mortality (hazard ratio, 1.56; 95% confidence interval, 1.23-1.97), as well as several non-CVD diagnoses, including hip fracture (2.14; 1.03-4.46), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (2.06; 1.29-3.29), and pneumonia (1.79; 1.30-2.45), with magnitudes of association that were larger than for those of coronary artery calcium. Conclusions- TAC is associated with non-CVD morbidity and non-CVD mortality, potentially through a pathway that is unrelated to atherosclerosis. TAC may be a general marker of biological aging and an indicator of increased risk of non-CVD and death.
Keywords: aging; aorta, thoracic; atherosclerosis; mortality; tomography.