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The effect of midlife cardiovascular risk factors on white matter hyperintensity volume and cognition two decades later in normal ageing women

Aljondi R, Szoeke C, Steward C, Gorelik A, Desmond P (2018) Brain Imaging Behav.  2018 Sep.  doi: 10.1007/s11682-018-9970-5. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Cerebral White Matter Hyperintensity (WMH) lesions have been identified as markers of cerebrovascular diseases and they are associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment.

In this study, we investigated the relationship between midlife cardiovascular risk factors and late life WMH volumes two decades later, and examined their association with cognitive performance. 135 participants from the Women's Healthy Ageing Project had completed midlife cardiovascular risk measurement in 1992 and late life brain MRI scan and cognitive assessment in 2012. In these community-dwelling normal aging women, we found that higher midlife Framingham Cardiovascular Risk Profile (FCRP) score was associated with greater WMH volume two decades later, and was predominantly driven by the impact of HDL cholesterol level, controlling for age, education and APOE ε4 status. Structural equation modelling demonstrated that the relationship between midlife FCRP score and late life executive function was mediated by WMH volume.

These findings suggest intervention strategies that target major cardiovascular risk factors at midlife might be effective in reducing the development of WMH lesions and thus late life cognitive decline.