Artery clogging can progress “significantly” in middle age

Artery clogging progressed “significantly” in 41% of a group of apparently healthy middle-aged men and women over a three-year period, found a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The authors note that the progression of artery clogging is linked to heart attacks and strokes, citing earlier research.

Even in those designated as “low risk,” progression of artery clogging was found in 36% of study participants.

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Progression was measured both as an increase in the number of arterial plaque lesions, and as an increase in the total volume of arterial plaque.

Progression was detected more frequently in peripheral arteries, as measured by 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional ultrasound tests, than in the coronary arteries, as measured by the coronary artery calcium score.

The authors found that higher levels of cholesterol in the blood contributed to progression of artery clogging, and noted this is the risk factor that is the most easily modified.

An editorial comment published with the study noted that artery clogging at more than one site has been found to be “essentially ubiquitous” in those age 60 years and older, with over 90% of men and women of that age group having arterial plaque in at least one site.

The study, available free online, is titled “Short-term progression of multi-territorial subclinical atherosclerosis.” Atherosclerosis is the medical term for artery-clogging, and subclinical means early-stage. The editorial comment, also free online, is titled “Evaluating multi-site atherosclerosis and its progression: ready for prime time?”

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