Objectives: This study was designed to estimate the prevalence of coronary artery calcification in young adult men and women and to examine the association between the presence of coronary artery calcification and coronary risk factors measured in childhood and young adult life.
Background: Electron beam computed tomography is a sensitive, noninvasive method for detecting coronary artery calcification, a marker of the atherosclerotic process. Coronary artery calcification is associated with coronary risk factors in older adults.
Methods: Subjects (197 men, 187 women) had coronary risk factors measured in childhood (mean age 15 years) and twice during young adult life (mean ages 27 and 33 years). Each underwent an electron beam computed tomographic study at their second young adult examination.
Results: The prevalence of coronary artery calcification was 31% in men and 10% in women. Increased body size, increased blood pressure and decreased high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels were the coronary risk factors that showed the strongest association with coronary artery calcification. Significant odds ratios for coronary artery calcification, using standardized risk factor measurements at a mean age of 33 years in men and women, respectively, were 6.4 and 13.6 for the highest decile of body mass index, 6.4 and 6.4 for the highest decile of systolic blood pressure and 4.3 and 4.7 for the lowest decile of HDL cholesterol.
Conclusions: Coronary artery calcification is more prevalent in men in this young adult population. Coronary risk factors measured in children and young adults are associated with the early development of coronary artery calcification. Increased body mass index measured during childhood and young adult life and increased blood pressure and decreased HDL cholesterol levels measured during young adult life are associated with the presence of coronary artery calcification in young adults.