OBJECTIVE - The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between C-reactive protein (CRP) and carotid atherosclerosis.
BACKGROUND - Levels of CRP, a nonspecific marker of inflammation, predict risk for cardiovascular events. However, the association between CRP and direct measures of atherosclerosis is not well established.
METHODS AND RESULTS - Subjects (n=3173, 52% women, mean age 55) in the offspring cohort of the Framingham Heart Study received a CRP measurement and then underwent carotid ultrasonography 4 years later. Carotid stenosis (> or =25%) was present in 24% of men and 14% of women. Age-adjusted odds ratios for carotid stenosis were 1.62 (95%CI 1.12 to 2.36) for men and 3.90 (CI 2.44 to 6.44) for women in the fourth quartile of CRP compared with those in the lowest quartile. After further adjustment for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, the odds ratio remained significant for women (2.97, CI 1.72 to 5.25) but not for men. Similarly, after multivariable adjustment, women in the fourth CRP quartile had a higher mean internal carotid intima-media thickness than those in the lowest CRP quartile (P< or =0.001). There was no association between common carotid intima-media thickness and CRP.
CONCLUSIONS - There is a graded association between CRP and carotid atherosclerosis in women but not in men. The significance of this difference between sexes merits further investigation.