Defining Demographic-specific Coronary Artery Calcium Percentiles in the Population Aged ≥75: The ARIC Study and MESA

Circ Cardiovasc Imaging. 2023 Sep;16(9):e015145. doi: 10.1161/CIRCIMAGING.122.015145. Epub 2023 Sep 1.


Background: Current clinical guidelines recommend a coronary artery calcium (CAC) score of 100 Agatston Units or demographic-specific 75th percentile as high-risk thresholds for guiding atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease preventive therapy. Meanwhile, low CAC can help derisk individuals who may safely defer statin therapy. However, limited data from the early 2000s, including just 208 older Black individuals, inform CAC percentiles for adults aged 75 to 85 years, and none have been established in adults aged ≥85 years. This study aims to characterize the distribution of CAC and establish demographic-specific CAC percentiles in the population aged ≥75 years.

Methods: We assessed 2886 participants aged ≥75 years without clinical coronary heart disease from the ARIC study (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) visit 7 (2018-2019; n=2217) and the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) visit 5 (2010-2011; n=669). Prevalence of any CAC >0 and sex- and race-specific CAC percentiles across age were estimated nonparametrically with locally weighted regression models and pooled residual ranking.

Results: The median age was 80 (interquartile interval, 77-83) years, and 60% were female. The prevalence of zero CAC was lowest in White males (4%), followed by Black males (13%), White females (14%), and highest in Black females (18%). Regardless of sex and race, most participants had CAC>100 (62.5%). CAC scores increased with age, with CAC identified in ≈95% of participants aged ≥90 years across sex-race subgroups. The 75th percentile corresponded to higher CAC scores for Black older adults (n=741), especially females, than currently used thresholds.

Conclusions: In community-dwelling adults aged ≥75 years free of clinical coronary heart disease, the prevalence of zero CAC was 11%, and CAC >100 as a threshold for high ASCVD risk would categorize most of this older population as high risk. Demographic-specific CAC percentiles from this study are a valuable tool for interpreting CAC in the population aged ≥75 years.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; calcium; cardiovascular disease; heart disease; tomography.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atherosclerosis*
  • Black People
  • Calcium*
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male


  • Calcium