Mildly elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) levels have been associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Carotid artery intimal-medial wall thickening is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and has been previously shown to be positively associated with plasma tHcy in studies of asymptomatic subjects. In the current study we examined 1467 subjects with regard to their fasting plasma tHcy levels and intimal- medial wall thickness as measured by B-mode ultrasound and early onset CHD. The results showed that there is a significant positive association between plasma tHcy levels and carotid-artery wall thickness in participants 55 years or older even after the tHcy levels are adjusted for age, smoking and anti- hypertensive medication. The direction and magnitude of the relationship is similar although the result was not statistically significant in younger participants (< 55 years). Early onset CHD at any age was not significantly different across the tHcy quintiles. The lack of an association of tHcy and CHD in the presence of a positive association with intimal-medial wall thickening may be a reflection of increased statistical power of quantitative versus qualitative traits. We conclude that the present finding of a positive association between tHcy and intimal-medial wall thickness strengthens the in vitro finding of the stimulating effect of homocysteine on vascular smooth muscle cell growth. Vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation may be an important mechanism through which mildly elevated plasma tHcy promotes atherosclerosis. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
- Cardiovascular disease