Background: Hyperuricemia is closely associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, it has not been definitively established whether this association is independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) and whether it is gender-dependent. The aim of this study was to investigate in a population-based cohort (age range, 50-64 years) stratified by sex the association between the serum urate (SU) concentration and subclinical atherosclerosis, as reflected in the coronary artery calcification (CAC) score, common carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), and carotid plaque score.
Methods: The study involved participants in the Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study (SCAPIS) Pilot cohort (N = 1040; 48.8% males). This pilot cohort is part of the large population-based SCAPIS with 30,000 participants in the age range of 50-64 years, aimed at improving risk prediction for CVD. Subjects with a self-reported previous history of CVD (N = 68) or gout (N = 3) were excluded. The CAC score was assessed with the Agatston method using computed tomography. CIMT and carotid plaques were quantified by ultrasound. The associations between the SU quartiles and different levels of CAC, CIMT, and carotid plaques were assessed by multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Age, BMI, education level, smoking, physical activity, hs-CRP, hypertension, and dyslipidemia showed no differences between males and females, while CAC (score > 0) and diabetes were both twice as common in men than in women (58% vs 26% and 8% vs 4%, respectively). Higher SU quartiles were in both sexes associated with BMI, hs-CRP, and the prevalence of hypertension, and in women, they were also associated with the prevalence of dyslipidemia. The three upper quartiles of SU (>308μmol/L) were linked to higher CAC scores in men, when adjusting for CVRFs, but not in women. CIMT and carotid plaques showed no correlation to SU in either sex.
Conclusions: Higher levels of SU are associated with the presence of CAC in men but not in women, whereas SU is not associated with CIMT or carotid plaques in either men or women. This implies that the biological effects of SU differ in men and women or that SU has varying effects on different vascular beds or during the different stages of the atherosclerotic process.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Carotid plaque; Coronary artery calcification; Intima-media thickness; SCAPIS; Serum urate; Subclinical atherosclerosis.