Persistent Asthma Is Associated With Carotid Plaque in MESA


Asthma and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease share an underlying inflammatory pathophysiology. We hypothesized that persistent asthma is associated with carotid plaque burden, a strong predictor of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events.

Methods and Results

The MESA (Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) enrolled adults free of known atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease at baseline. Subtype of asthma was determined at examination 1. Persistent asthma was defined as asthma requiring use of controller medications, and intermittent asthma was defined as asthma without controller medications. B‐mode carotid ultrasound was performed to detect carotid plaques (total plaque score [TPS], range 0–12). Multivariable regression modeling with robust variances evaluated the association of asthma subtype and carotid plaque burden. The 5029 participants were a mean (SD) age of 61.6 (10.0) years (53% were women, 26% were Black individuals, 23% were Hispanic individuals, and 12% were Chinese individuals). Carotid plaque was present in 50.5% of participants without asthma (TPS, 1.29 [1.80]), 49.5% of participants with intermittent asthma (TPS, 1.25 [1.76]), and 67% of participants with persistent asthma (TPS, 2.08 [2.35]) (P≤0.003). Participants with persistent asthma had higher interleukin‐6 (1.89 [1.61] pg/mL) than participants without asthma (1.52 [1.21] pg/mL; P=0.02). In fully adjusted models, persistent asthma was associated with carotid plaque presence (odds ratio, 1.83 [95% confidence interval, 1.21–2.76]; P<0.001) and TPS (β=0.66; P<0.01), without attenuation after adjustment for baseline interleukin‐6 (P=0.02) or CRP (C‐reactive protein) (P=0.01).


Participants with persistent asthma had higher carotid plaque burden and higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers, compared with participants without asthma. Adjustment for baseline inflammatory biomarkers did not attenuate the association between carotid plaque and asthma subtype, highlighting the increased atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk among those with persistent asthma may be multifactorial.