Ankle-arm index as a marker of atherosclerosis in the cardiovascular health study

Anne B. Newman, David S. Siscovick, Teri A. Manolio, Joseph Polak, Linda P. Fried, Nemat O. Borhani, Sidney K. Wolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

928 Scopus citations


Background. Peripheral arterial disease measured noninvasively by the ankle-arm index (AAI) is common in older adults, largely asymptomatic, and associated with clinically manifest cardiovascular disease (CVD). The criteria for an abnormal AAI have varied in previous studies. To determine whether there is an inverse dose-response relation between the AAI and clinical CVD, subclinical disease, and risk factors, we examined the relation of the AAI to cardiovascular risk factors, other noninvasive measures of subclinical atherosclerosis using carotid ultrasound, echocardiography and electrocardiography, and clinical CVD. Methods and Results. The AAI was measured in 5084 participants ≥65 years old at the baseline examination of the Cardiovascular Health Study. All subjects had detailed assessment of prevalent CVD, measures of cardiovascular risk factors, and noninvasive measures of disease. Participants were stratified by baseline clinical CVD status and AAI (<0.8, ≥0.8 to <0.9, ≥0.9 to <1.0, ≥1.0 to <1.5). Analyses tested for a dose-response relation of the AAI with clinical CVD, risk factors, and subclinical disease. The cumulative frequency of a low AAI was 7.4% of participants <0.8, 12.4% <0.9, and 23.6% <1.0. Participants with an AAI <0.8 were more than twice as likely as those with an AAI of 1.0 to 1.5 to have a history of myocardial infarction, angina, congestive heart failure, stroke, or transient ischemic attack (all P<.01). In participants free of clinical CVD at baseline, the AAI was inversely related to history of hypertension, history of diabetes, and smoking, as well as systolic blood pressure, serum creatinine, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, measures of pulmonary function, and fibrinogen level (all P<.01). Risk factor associations with the AAI were similar in men and women free of CVD except for serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which were inversely associated with AAI level only in women. Risk factors associated with an AAI of <1.0 in multivariate analysis included smoking (odds ratio [OR], 2.55), history of diabetes (OR, 3.84), increasing age (OR, 1.54), and nonwhite race (OR, 2.36). In the 3372 participants free of clinical CVD, other noninvasive measures of subclinical CVD, including carotid stenosis by duplex scanning, segmental wall motion abnormalities by echocardiogram, and major ECG abnormalities were inversely related to the AAI (all P<.01). Conclusions. There was an inverse dose-response relation of the AAI with CVD risk factors and subclinical and clinical CVD among older adults. The lower the AAI, the greater the increase in CVD risk; however, even those with modest, asymptomatic reductions in the AAI (0.8 to 1.0) appear to be at increased risk of CVD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-845
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Epidemiology
  • Peripheral vasculature
  • Tests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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