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25-02-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Pericardial fat linked to carotid stiffness


Free abstract

MedWire News: Pericardial fat is associated with carotid artery stiffness independently of traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and obesity, US researchers report.

Arterial stiffness is a hallmark of aging that is characterized by elastin degeneration and increases in collagen, wall thickening, and progressive dilation, say Tina Brinkley and co-workers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

They investigated whether fat around the heart and blood vessels – known as pericardial fat – might contribute to arterial stiffness in 5770 participants, with a mean age of 62 years, from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Pericardial fat was measured using computed tomography, while common carotid artery stiffness was assessed using ultrasonography and the measurements used to calculate a distensibility coefficient (DC) and Young’s modulus (YM).

Lower DC and higher YM values indicate stiffer arteries.

Increasing quartiles of pericardial fat were highly associated with demographic, behavioral, anthropometric, hemodynamic, metabolic, and disease variables in men and women.

Each 41.91 cm3 increase in pericardial fat – equivalent to one standard deviation – was associated with a 0.00007 1/mmHg lower DC in men after adjusting for height, clinical site, CVD risk factors, and medications. The YM value lost significance after adjustment.

In women, each 41.91 cm3 increase was associated with a 48.1 mmHg/mm higher YM after adjustment, with the DC not statistically significant.

Further adjusting for C-reactive protein, coronary artery calcification, and carotid intima-media thickness had only modest effects.

“More importantly, adjusting for body mass index and waist circumference did not significantly change the overall results,” the authors note in the Journal of Nutrition.

They conclude: “Although more studies are needed to address whether fat around the heart and blood vessels is a distinct risk factor or simply a marker of visceral fat, this fat depot may prove to be a therapeutic target in reducing CVD morbidity and mortality.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Anita Wilkinson