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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

VAN KETS, V et al. Atherosclerotic lesions in the thoracic aorta: a South African anatomical and histological mortuary study. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2011, vol.101, n.6, pp. 409-412. ISSN 0256-9574.

BACKGROUND: Worldwide, the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis is on the increase. Younger people may be especially vulnerable owing to their exposure to risk factors such as drug abuse and HIV. METHODS: The thoracic aortas of 149 South Africans under the age of 50 years were collected at the Salt River Mortuary, Cape Town, and examined macroscopically and microscopically for evidence of anomalies. The sample comprised predominantly males, and included black, coloured and white individuals. RESULTS: A significantly higher level of macroscopic pathology was found in coloured males, although overall prevalence of pathology in this sample was lower than expected. A positive association was also found between body mass index and vascular pathology in the black and coloured population groups. Microscopic anomalies were common and present at high levels, irrespective of age and racial grouping. CONCLUSIONS: The widespread prevalence of microscopic anomalies in all groups suggests that these are normal variations that result from haemodynamic forces. The higher prevalence of atherosclerotic lesions in coloured males, however, probably results from specific genetic conditions such as hypercholesterolaemia or lifestyle factors such as diet or tik abuse. The findings suggest that coloured individuals may be at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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