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Sex Differences in Coronary Artery Calcium and Long-term CV Mortality


Purpose of Review

To summarize differences in plaque depositions, coronary artery calcium (CAC) scoring, and the role of CAC in predicting atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) mortality in men and women.

Recent Findings

Women have coronary plaque that is more lipid-rich, dense, and less calcified than their male counterparts. CAC scoring has emerged as a useful tool to quantify ASCVD burden. However, recent evidence favors the use of sex-adjusted CAC cutoffs for women to account for the relatively lower overall CAC burden and therefore risk stratify women appropriately. Several studies have identified CAC distribution patterns in women associated with increased CV mortality, particularly the number of lesions involved, CAC volume, and size.


Multiple studies have shown that the pathophysiology and associated risks of ASCVD are different in women when compared with men. CAC scoring is a tool that is widely being used for ASCVD risk stratification. Recent studies have shown that although men have higher CAC burdens, women are more likely to develop plaque erosions with non-calcified plaque that carries a greater risk for cardiovascular events. Providers should be aware of sex-specific CAC patterns carrying increased mortality risk for women, particularly increasing lesion size and number. Given the differences in plaque composition and distribution, revised sex-adjusted CAC scoring is suggested to better risk stratify patients, especially those deemed intermediate risk, and decrease CV mortality.

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Fig. 1


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Correspondence to Martha Gulati.

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Allison Bigeh, Chandana Shekar, and Martha Gulati declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Bigeh, A., Shekar, C. & Gulati, M. Sex Differences in Coronary Artery Calcium and Long-term CV Mortality. Curr Cardiol Rep 22, 21 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11886-020-1267-9

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  • Coronary artery calcium
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sex differences
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Women
  • Prevention