Education is strongly inversely associated with common carotid artery intima-media thickness in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. The authors extended the ARIC study of preclinical atherosclerosis by evaluating the cross-sectional association of education with common carotid artery elasticity. This study included 10,091 Black and White men and women aged 45-64 years who were free of clinical coronary heart disease and stroke/transient ischemic attack. Arterial elasticity was assessed by pulsatile arterial diameter change (PADC), derived from phase-locked echo-tracking. The smaller the PADC, the stiffer the artery. Education was categorized into grade school, high school without graduation, high school with graduation, vocational school, some college, and graduate/professional school. PADC was directly associated with educational attainment. The mean PADCs, adjusted for age, height, diastolic diameter, systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure (linear and squared), ethnicity, gender, and smoking status, in successively higher education strata were 402 (standard error (SE) 5), 403 (SE 4), 407 (SE 3), 413 (SE 4), 416 (SE 2), and 417 (SE 4) μm (p = 0.007). To the authors' knowledge, this is the first time such an association has been reported. If arterial dilation impairment precedes arterial wall thickening in the atherosclerotic process, as recent studies on endothelial dysfunction suggest, these results indicate that low socioeconomic status may be associated with early arterial pathophysiologic changes - an effect that appears to be mediated by established cardiovascular disease risk factors.
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