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Fat around heart may be early indicator of coronary disease
Date:8/15/2011

OAK BROOK, Ill. Researchers have found more evidence supporting the role of fat around the heart in promoting atherosclerosis, according to a study published online in the journal Radiology.

New results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) show that pericardial fat is more strongly related to coronary artery plaque than either body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference.

When plaque forms in the arteries, it deposits in an irregular manner, causing thickening of the artery wall on one side, but not the other. The ratio of the thick side to the thin side is referred to as plaque eccentricity and is a strong indicator of heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new heart attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. Every 60 seconds, one person in the U.S. dies from a heart attack.

While previous studies have looked at the relationship of pericardial fat to atherosclerosis in patients with severe coronary disease, this is the first study to determine the association of pericardial fat on coronary artery plaque burden in asymptomatic individuals.

"The individuals in this study had no symptoms and were otherwise healthy," said senior author David A. Bluemke, M.D., Ph.D., director of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Care. "They did not have significant coronary artery narrowing. Yet, despite this, they had coronary plaque that could be detected by MRI."

For the study, 183 individuals without clinical cardiovascular disease were recruited from the Baltimore and Chicago field centers of MESA, a study funded by the NIH. Participants included 89 women and 94 men with a mean age of 61 years.

"The individuals were fairly representative of the U.S. population, although the majority were overweight," Dr. Bluemke
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Contact: Linda Brooks
lbrooks@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
Source:Eurekalert

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