Carotid arteries are in the neck and supply blood to the brain. Thickening of the carotid artery wall is an early sign of atherosclerotic disease and a risk factor for stroke.
The association between obesity regardless of other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerotic disease has been controversial, says the study's author Paolo Rubba, M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of the clinical unit for vascular medicine Federico II University, Naples, Italy.
"There is an established link between obesity and damage to the heart, but whether obesity also has an independent effect on the carotid arteries is less well known," he says.
Researchers investigated whether overall obesity and obesity specific to the abdominal area were associated with thickening of the carotid arteries. They analyzed data from the Progetto ATENA study, an ongoing study of chronic disease in more than 5,000 middle-aged women from Southern Italy. In this region, increased caloric intake, increased animal fat intake and sedentary habits have led to a high prevalence of overweight and obesity, the researchers say.
Researchers took a sub-sample of 310 study participants (average age 55) who had ultrasound testing to examine the intima-media thickness (IMT), which is the lining and middle muscle layers of the carotid artery. They also examined the intima-media area (IM). The researchers compared body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio which both indicate obesity to the health of the carotid arteries.
They found a significant association between the estimates of obesity and the level of wall thickness, which was still significant after accounting fo
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association