PloS one

Vascular factors and multiple measures of early brain health: CARDIA brain MRI study.

PMID 25812012


To identify early changes in brain structure and function that are associated with cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF). Cross-sectional brain Magnetic Resonance I (MRI) study. Community based cohort in three U.S. sites. A Caucasian and African-American sub-sample (n= 680; mean age 50.3 yrs) attending the 25 year follow-up exam of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. 3T brain MR images processed for quantitative estimates of: total brain (TBV) and abnormal white matter (AWM) volume; white matter fractional anisotropy (WM-FA); and gray matter cerebral blood flow (GM-CBF). Total intracranial volume is TBV plus cerebral spinal fluid (TICV). A Global Cognitive Function (GCF) score was derived from tests of speed, memory and executive function. Adjusting for TICV and demographic factors, current smoking was significantly associated with lower GM-CBF and TBV, and more AWM (all <0.05); SA with lower GM-CBF, WM-FA and TBV (p=0.01); increasing BMI with decreasing GM-CBF (p<0003); hypertension with lower GM-CBF, WM-FA, and TBV and higher AWM (all <0.05); and diabetes with lower TBV (p=0.007). The GCS was lower as TBV decreased, AWM increased, and WM-FA (all p<0.01). In middle age adults, CVRF are associated with brain health, reflected in MRI measures of structure and perfusion, and cognitive functioning. These findings suggest markers of mid-life cardiovascular and brain health should be considered as indication for early intervention and future risk of late-life cerebrovascular disease and dementia.