Objective: Carotid atherosclerosis is a marker for atherosclerotic disease in other vascular beds; however, racial differences in this association have not been fully examined. The purpose of this report was to evaluate racial differences in the relationship between carotid plaque and calcification in the aorta and coronary arteries among women transitioning through menopause.
Methods: A total of 540 African American and white women with a median age of 50 years were evaluated from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Carotid plaque (none vs. any) was assessed with B-mode ultrasound, and aortic calcification (AC; 0, >0-100, and >100) and coronary artery calcification (CAC; 0, >0-10, and >10) were assessed with CT.
Results: For the total cohort, higher prevalence of plaque was significantly associated with higher levels of AC but not CAC. The interaction of race and carotid plaque was significant in models with AC and CAC as dependent variables (P = 0.03 and 0.002, respectively). Among African Americans, there was an inverse relationship, although not significant, between carotid plaque and high AC (>100; odds ratio [OR], 0.75; 95% CI, 0.10-5.48) and between plaque and high CAC (>10; OR, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.03-1.52) in fully adjusted models. In contrast, for whites, significant positive associations existed between carotid plaque and high AC (OR, 4.12; 95% CI, 1.29-13.13) and borderline associations for high CAC (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 0.66-5.19).
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that the presence of carotid plaque seemed to be a marker for AC and potentially CAC in white women, but not African American middle-aged women, during the menopausal transition.