Gender-specific differences in carotid intima-media thickness and its progression over three years: A multicenter European study.
ABSTRACT BACKGROUND AND AIMS: This multicentre European study evaluated, in a young-to-middle-aged healthy population without carotid atherosclerosis, the gender-related differences in carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and its short-term (3-year) progression, and whether these differences are related to different vascular ageing rate, cardiovascular risk profile or different susceptibility to family predisposition to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). METHODS AND RESULTS: 366 men and 422 women (age between 30 and 60 years) underwent B-mode carotid ultrasound at baseline and after 3-year follow-up period. IMT in 3 carotid segments was higher in men than in women (p < 0.0001 for all segments). When evaluated according to age decade, differences between men and women disappeared in the 6th decade, as in this decade a 3-year IMT progression rate accelerated in women (p < 0.05 as compared to the 4th and 5th age decade). Age was a major determinant of baseline all-segment IMT in women; in men all-segment IMT was influenced by age and LDL-cholesterol. IMT progression did not correlate with established cardiovascular risk factors, their short-term changes or family predisposition to CVD. Yet, a 3-year IMT progression in common carotid artery (CCA) was higher in men (p = 0.01) and women (p < 0.01) in whom relative Framingham risk increased during the corresponding period. CONCLUSION: This study provides reference values on IMT and its short-term progression in healthy young-to-middle-aged population, and demonstrates gender-related differences in the susceptibility of carotid wall to ageing and LDL-cholesterol. Increase in Framingham risk accelerated a short-term CCA IMT progression rate in both genders, whereas family predisposition to CVD did not influence carotid IMT.