Clogged Neck Artery May Warn Of Heart Attack As Well As Stroke

DALLAS, May 7 -- Extensive fatty deposits in the carotid arteries, the blood vessels in the neck that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, may be a marker for coronary artery disease, according to a study in this month's Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Coronary heart disease is characterized by atherosclerosis -- accumulations of fat, cholesterol and other cells in the blood vessels of the heart. If these accumulations, known as plaque, rupture, a heart attack may result.

Previous studies have reported that individuals with atherosclerosis in their carotid arteries are likely to have coronary heart disease. This study was designed to refine this association and determine whether the severity of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries correlated with the severity of coronary heart disease, according to the study's lead author, Ioannis Kallikazaros, M.D., associate director in cardiology at Hippokration Hospital in Athens, Greece.

The Greek team studied 225 people with chest pain who had been referred to Hippokration Hospital to determine if they had heart disease. Study participants, none of whom had been previously diagnosed with coronary heart disease, ranged in age from 35 to 77 years, with an average age of 58.

Patients underwent angiography, an imaging procedure in which a dye is injected into the artery to the heart to provide an X-ray of the blood vessels of the heart. Each person received noninvasive ultrasound tests of the carotid arteries to search both the left and right sides, and branches, for obstructions.

Researchers found that severe atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries was related to severe coronary heart disease. Conversely, normal carotid arteries indicated the person had no severe coronary heart disease, says Kallikazaros.

In the study, 39 percent of the study group had severe heart disease. In 31 percent of these 88 individuals, the atherosclerotic obstructions were severe

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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