People with a "hardening" of the abdominal aorta are at increased risk for
heart attack and stroke, according to a new study.
Arteriosclerosis is the
medical term for a narrowing and hardening of the arteries caused by a build-up
of plaque. The aorta is the largest artery in the body, carrying oxygen-rich
blood from the heart; the section of the aorta in the abdomen is called the
Researchers used MRI to examine plaque accumulation and abdominal aortic wall
thickness in more than 2 100 people in Dallas County, Texas. During a follow-up
period of nearly eight years, 143 of the participants, whose average age was 44,
had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. Thirty-four of
those events were fatal.
Increased abdominal wall thickness was associated with an increased risk for
all types of cardiovascular events. An increase in both wall thickness and
plaque build-up was associated with a higher risk for nonfatal events in arteries
outside of the heart, such as a stroke.
"This is an important study, because it demonstrates that arteriosclerosis in
an artery outside the heart is an independent predictor of adverse
cardiovascular events," lead author Dr Christopher Maroules, a radiology
resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said
in a journal news release. "MRI is a promising tool for quantifying
arteriosclerosis through plaque and arterial wall thickness measurements."
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about arteriosclerosis.