Association Between Cardiovascular Risk Factors and the Diameter of the Thoracic Aorta in an Asymptomatic Population in the Central Appalachian Region

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Background: Effects of cardiovascular (CV) risk factors on the diameter of the thoracic aorta have not been fully studied. This study examined the associations between CV risk factors and diameter of thoracic aorta. Materials and Methods: Study population comprised of 1273 asymptomatic adults aged ≥18 years from Central Appalachia region of the United States who participated in a coronary artery screening between January 2014 and December 2016. Descriptive statistics and multiple linear regression analyses were performed to examine associations between multiple CV risk factors and diameters of the thoracic aorta. Results: Mean (±SD) age of participants was 57.9±9.7 years; that of body mass index (BMI) was 29.4±5.9. The mean aortic sinus, ascending aorta, and descending aorta diameter were 34.1±4.4 mm, 33.8±4.4 mm, and 26.0±3.6 mm, respectively. Increasing age, being male, and having a higher BMI were associated with wider aortic sinus, ascending aorta, and descending aorta diameters. Hypertension (p < 0.05) and obesity (p < 0.0001) were significantly associated with wider diameter for all measured aortic diameters. Participants with diabetes had wider descending aorta compared to those without (26.6±3.9 mm vs. 25.9±3.5 mm, P = 0.012). Participants who had ever smoked a cigarette had significantly wider descending aorta diameter compared to never smokers (26.3±3.6 mm vs. 25.9±3.5 mm, p = 0.031). Conclusions: The study results suggest that decreasing BMI and management of CV risk factors such as hypertension and modifying behavioral risk factors such as smoking are likely to be emphasized in order to decrease the rate of aortic dilatation and subsequent aortic dissection, if aortic dilatation is detected during a CT scan.