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Contribution of Conventional Cardiovascular Risk Factors to Brain White Matter Hyperintensities.

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Background White matter hyperintensities (WMHs) are a major risk factor for stroke and dementia, but their pathogenesis is incompletely understood. It has been debated how much risk is accounted for by conventional cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs), and this has major implications as to how effective a preventative strategy targeting these risk factors will be. Methods and Results We included 41 626 UK Biobank participants (47.2% men), with a mean age of 55 years (SD, 7.5 years), who underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging at the first imaging assessment beginning in 2014. The relationships among CVRFs, cardiovascular conditions, and WMH volume as a percentage of total brain volume were examined using correlations and structural equation models. Only 32% of the variance in WMH volume was explained by measures of CVRFs, sex, and age, of which age accounted for 16%. CVRFs combined accounted for ≈15% of the variance. However, a large portion of the variance (well over 60%) remains unexplained. Of the individual CVRFs, blood pressure parameters together accounted for ≈10.5% of the total variance (diagnosis of hypertension, 4.4%; systolic blood pressure, 4.4%; and diastolic blood pressure, 1.7%). The variance explained by most individual CVRFs declined with age. Conclusions Our findings suggest the presence of other vascular and nonvascular factors underlying the development of WMHs. Although they emphasize the importance of modification of conventional CVRFs, particularly hypertension, they highlight the need to better understand risk factors underlying the considerable unexplained variance in WMHs if we are to develop better preventative approaches.



cardiovascular risk factors, magnetic resonance imaging, structural equation modeling, white matter hyperintensities, Male, Humans, Middle Aged, Female, White Matter, Cardiovascular Diseases, Risk Factors, Brain, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Hypertension, Heart Disease Risk Factors

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J Am Heart Assoc

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Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health)
Alzheimer's Society (573 (AS-RF-21-017))
British Heart Foundation (RE/18/1/34212)
British Heart Foundation (RG/F/22/110052)
National Institute for Health and Care Research (IS-BRC-1215-20014)