Early insulin resistance in normoglycemic low-risk individuals is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis

Josep Iglesies-Grau, Ana Garcia-Alvarez, Belén Oliva, Guiomar Mendieta, Inés García-Lunar, José J. Fuster, Ana Devesa, Cristina Pérez-Herreras, Antonio Fernández-Ortiz, Ramon Brugada, Borja Ibanez, Rodrigo Fernandez-Jimenez, Valentin Fuster

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Background: Elevated glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is associated with a higher burden of subclinical atherosclerosis (SA). However, the association with SA of earlier insulin resistance markers is poorly understood. The study assessed the association between the homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR) and SA in addition to the effect of cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) in individuals with normal HbA1c. Methods: A cohort of 3,741 middle-aged individuals from the Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis (PESA) study with basal HbA1c < 6.0% (< 42 mmol/mol) and no known CV disease underwent extensive imaging (multiterritorial vascular ultrasound and coronary artery calcium score, CACS) to assess the presence, burden, and extent of SA. Results: Individuals with higher HOMA-IR values had higher rates of CVRFs. HOMA-IR showed a direct association with the multiterritorial extent of SA and CACS (p < 0.001) and with global plaque volume measured by 3-dimensional vascular ultrasound (p < 0.001). After adjusting for key CVRFs and HbA1c, HOMA-IR values ≥ 3 were associated with both the multiterritorial extent of SA (odds ratio 1.41; 95%CI: 1.01 to 1.95, p = 0.041) and CACS > 0 (odds ratio 1.74; 95%CI: 1.20 to 2.54, p = 0.004), as compared with the HOMA-IR < 2 (the reference HOMA-IR category). In a stratified analysis, this association remained significant in individuals with a low-to-moderate SCORE2 risk estimate (75.6% of the cohort) but not in high-risk individuals. Conclusions: The use of HOMA-IR identified low-risk individuals with a higher burden of SA, after adjusting for the effects of key traditional CVRFs and HbA1c. HOMA-IR is a simple measure that could facilitate earlier implementation of primary CV prevention strategies in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number350
JournalCardiovascular Diabetology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Imaging
  • Insulin resistance
  • Primary disease prevention


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