(HealthDay News) — Intracranial atherosclerosis predicts, and may significantly increase the risk of, stroke in the general white population, according to research published online February 17 in JAMA Neurology.

Daniel Bos, MD, PhD, of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a cohort study of 2,323 stroke-free persons in the community (mean age, 69.5 years). The participants received computed tomography scans to measure intracranial carotid artery calcification (ICAC) and were monitored for the occurrence of stroke during six years of follow-up.

The researchers found that larger ICAC volume was associated with higher risk of stroke (fully adjusted hazard ratio per increase of one standard deviation in ICAC volume, 1.43; 95% confidence interval, 1.04–1.96), independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, ultrasound carotid plaque score, and calcification of other vessels. The contribution of arterial calcification to the incidence of strokes in whites was 75% for intracranial carotid arteries, 45% for the aortic arch, and 25% for extracranial carotid arteries.

“Our findings establish intracranial atherosclerosis as a major risk factor for stroke in the general white population and suggest that its contribution to the proportion of all strokes may be greater than that of large-artery atherosclerosis in more proximally located vessel beds,” the authors write.

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