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Racial and socioeconomic disparities in arterial stiffness and intima media thickness among adolescents

By Rebecca C. Thurston and Karen A. Matthews


Racial and socioeconomic status (SES) disparities in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk are well established among adults. However, little is known about disparities in CVD risk among adolescents, particularly considering indices of subclinical CVD. Our aim was to examine socioeconomic and racial disparities in subclinical CVD indices among adolescents. We hypothesized that African American and lower SES adolescents would show greater arterial stiffness and intima media thickness compared to Caucasian and higher SES adolescents, respectively. Participants were 81 African American and 78 Caucasian adolescents (mean age = 17.8) from two schools in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Measures of subclinical CVD were pulse wave velocity and intima media thickness, as assessed by Doppler and B-mode ultrasound, respectively. SES indices included parental education, family income, family assets, subjective social status, and census-derived neighborhood SES. Hypotheses were evaluated in multiple linear regression models with the covariates age, gender, body mass index, and systolic blood pressure. Results indicated that African American adolescents were more often in low SES positions than Caucasians. When considered individually, racial and SES disparities in pulse wave velocity, and to a lesser extent, intima media thickness, were evident. When race and SES were considered together, high school education, low or medium income, and low neighborhood SES were associated with higher pulse wave velocity. Fewer assets were associated with higher intima media thickness. In conclusion, racial and SES disparities in indices of subclinical CVD were observed, with findings most pronounced for SES disparities in pulse wave velocity. This study extends previous findings in adults to adolescents, indicating that disparities in arterial stiffness and intima media thickness occur as early as adolescence. Efforts to reduce socioeconomic and racial disparities in CVD should target disparities early in life.USA Socioeconomic status (SES) Socioeconomic position Race Cardiovascular disease Pulse wave velocity Intima media thickening Adolescents

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