Objectives: This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis in a large group of asymptomatic hypertensive and normotensive adults and to examine its relation to the presence of left ventricular hypertrophy.
Background: Both electrocardiographic and echocardiographic left ventricular hypertrophy predict an increased risk of cardiovascular events and mortality, including cerebrovascular disease, but the mechanism of association is unknown.
Methods: Four hundred eighty-six (277 normotensive and 209 untreated hypertensive) adults, free of clinical evidence of cardiovascular disease, were studied prospectively with echocardiography to determine left ventricular mass and carotid ultrasound to detect atherosclerosis and to measure common carotid artery dimensions.
Results: Carotid atherosclerosis was present in 16% of normotensive and 23% of hypertensive participants (p < 0.05) and was associated with older age, higher systolic and pulse pressures and larger left ventricular mass index ([mean +/- SD] 91 +/- 19 vs. 82 +/- 18 g/m2, p < 0.0001). The difference in mass persisted after adjustment for baseline differences in age and blood pressure. Subjects with left ventricular hypertrophy were twice as likely to have carotid atheromas (35% vs. 18%, p < 0.01). Logistic regression analyses, including standard risk factors, indicated that only age and left ventricular mass index independently predicted the presence of carotid plaque, both in the entire study group and when normotensive and hypertensive subjects were considered separately.
Conclusions: We believe that the present study provides the first evidence that higher left ventricular mass as detected by echocardiography is associated with the presence of carotid plaque. The association between cardiac hypertrophy and systemic atherosclerosis may contribute to the pathogenesis of the high incidence of vascular events that is well documented in patients with left ventricular hypertrophy.