Atherosclerosis Progresses Rapidly in Healthy People From the Age of 40

April 7, 2020
Atheroma plaques extend rapidly through the arteries of 40% of asymptomatic individuals aged 40 to 50 years, according to a study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology. “The key finding of the study is that over a short follow-up of just 3 years, 40% of individuals aged 40 to 50 years showed major progression of atherosclerosis in distinct locations, including the carotid, femoral, and coronary arteries,” said Beatriz López-Melgar, MD, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), Madrid, Spain. “This rapid disease progression could make these individuals more vulnerable to developing symptoms or having clinical events such as a myocardial infarction or stroke.” The Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis (PESA) study has been monitoring 4,200 healthy middle-aged men and women with noninvasive imaging technology, such as 2D or 3D ultrasound, for more than 10 years. “[Noninvasive technology] allows us to identify the progression of the disease earlier than is possible with classical markers, such as the presence of coronary calcium detected by computed tomography, thus allowing us to identify individuals at higher risk who could benefit from early intervention,” said Valentín Fuster, MD, CNIC. “This study is the first to analyse the progression of atherosclerosis at frequent intervals,” added Borja Ibañez, MD, CNIC. “The previous view was that the disease progressed very slowly throughout life. However, the new results show that the disease progressed very rapidly in 40% of the individuals analysed.” The researchers conclude that the findings, while they await validation from the occurrence of events in the PESA cohort in the future, will be of great value for the identification of strategies to stall the epidemic of cardiovascular disease. “Future data from the PESA study will show whether this progression is associated with subsequent cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Ibañez. “Until now, the speed of atherosclerosis progression has not been a factor in assessing individual risk.” Reference: SOURCE: Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III