Trends in Coronary Atherosclerosis: A Tale of Two Population Subgroups

Peter N. Nemetz, Carin Y. Smith, Kent R. Bailey, Veronique L. Roger, William D. Edwards, Cynthia L. Leibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background We previously investigated trends in subclinical coronary artery disease and associated risk factors among autopsied non-elderly adults who died from nonnatural causes. Although grade of atherosclerosis declined from 1981 through 2009, the trend was nonlinear, ending in 1995, concurrent with increasing obesity/diabetes in this population. The previous study used linear regression and examined trends for all 4 major epicardial coronary arteries combined. The present investigation of coronary artery disease trends for the period 1995 through 2012 was prompted by a desire for more detailed examination of more recent coronary artery disease trends in light of reports that the epidemics of obesity and diabetes have slowed and are perhaps ending. Methods This population-based series of cross-sectional investigations identified all Olmsted County, Minnesota residents aged 16-64 years who died 1995 through 2012 (N = 2931). For decedents with nonnatural manner of death, pathology reports were reviewed for grade of atherosclerosis assigned each major epicardial coronary artery. Using logistic regression, we estimated calendar-year trends in grade (unadjusted and age- and sex-adjusted) for each artery, initially as an ordinal measure (range, 0-4); then, based on evidence of nonproportional odds, as a dichotomous variable (any atherosclerosis, yes/no) and as an ordinal measure for persons with atherosclerosis (range, 1-4). Results Of 474 nonnatural deaths, 453 (96%) were autopsied; 426 (90%) had coronary stenosis graded. In the ordinal-logistic model for trends in coronary artery disease grade (range, 0-4), the proportional odds assumption did not hold. In subsequent analysis as a dichotomous outcome (grades 0 vs 1-4), each artery exhibited a significant temporal decline in the proportion with any atherosclerosis. Conversely, for subjects with coronary artery disease grade 1-4, age- and sex-adjusted ordinal regression revealed no change over time in 2 arteries and statistically significant temporal increases in severity in 2 arteries. Conclusions Findings suggest that efforts to prevent coronary artery disease onset have been relatively successful. However, statistically significant increases in the grade of atherosclerosis in 2 arteries among persons with coronary artery disease may be indicative of a major public health challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-314
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Subclinical coronary artery disease
  • Time trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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