Comparison of coronary heart disease risk factors in autopsied young adults from the PDAY Study with living young adults from the CARDIA study

C. Alex McMahan, Samuel S. Gidding, Gray T. Malcom, Pamela J. Schreiner, Jack P. Strong, Richard E. Tracy, O. Dale Williams, Henry C. McGill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Disease is sometimes best studied by examination of tissue obtained from autopsied individuals. Results derived from autopsied persons are considered biased because many factors influence the decision to perform an autopsy, and variables measured postmortem may be affected by changes immediately prior to death and emergency medical treatment. Methods: The Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) study measured coronary heart disease risk factors postmortem in autopsied young adults 23-34 years of age dying from external causes (accidents, homicides, suicides). The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study measured risk factors in living subjects of similar ages. Results: Within sex, race, and age groups, the differences in body mass index between PDAY and CARDIA were significant but small. The prevalences of hyperglycemia/diabetes within sex, race, and age groups were similar in PDAY and CARDIA; overall, blacks in PDAY, but not in CARDIA, had a higher prevalence than whites. Serum lipoprotein concentrations were slightly and significantly higher and significantly more variable in PDAY subjects than in CARDIA subjects; the greater variability was interpreted as due primarily to emergency medical treatment. Prevalences of smoking and hypertension were substantially higher in PDAY subjects. Conclusions: Although there were statistically significant differences, the overall similarity of the risk factors in the two studies supports the validity of investigating associations of risk factors measured postmortem with anatomically determined arterial lesions in autopsied young adults dying from external causes. The greater variability in postmortem serum measurements attenuates but does not obscure associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalCardiovascular Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Autopsy
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Risk factors
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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