A study conducted by Nathan Wong, PhD, MPH and colleagues at the University of California Irvine looked at cardiac CT scan data from 5,662 adults (mean age 61) in the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) to assess the effects of diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome on coronary artery calcification (plaque). The buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis, and is a clear risk factor for heart attack and heart failure. All participants were free of cardiovascular disease at the study outset, and all received both a baseline and follow-up cardiac CT scan with an average time between the two scans of 2.4 years.
Overall, 25.2% of the participants had metabolic syndrome only, 3.5% had diabetes only, 9% had both, and 62.3% had neither. The prevalence of detectable coronary artery calcium at baseline ranged from 44% for those with neither condition to 62% for those with both conditions.
In summary, individuals with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes or both conditions were about two times as likely to develop plaque between scans, and the progression of calcification among those with detectable levels on the initial scan was significantly faster. The progression of coronary calcium was most associated with increases in blood glucose and blood pressure.