Higher Aortic Stiffness Is Associated With Lower Global Cerebrovascular Reserve Among Older Humans

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Greater aortic stiffness and pulse pressure are associated with cerebrovascular remodeling, reduced white matter microstructure, and cognitive performance with aging in humans. However, it is unclear whether aortic stiffness and pulse pressure are associated with reduced basal global cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebrovascular reserve among older adults. Global CBF was quantified in 205 adults (range, 19–87 years; mean±SE: 30.6±1.3 years) using quantitative [15O]water brain positron emission tomography imaging. In a subset of older adults (n=24; 70.0±2.0 years), aortic stiffness (carotid femoral pulse wave velocity) and cerebrovascular reserve (change in global CBF after intravenous infusion of acetazolamide) were assessed. In the entire cohort, global CBF was lower in older compared with young adults (36.5±1.1 versus 50.5±0.7 mL/min per 100 mL; P<0.001). Global CBF was higher in young women compared with young men (51.0±0.30 versus 47.4±0.03 mL/min per 100 mL; P<0.001) but did not differ between older women and men (P=0.63). In older adults, greater carotid femoral pulse wave velocity was associated with lower cerebrovascular reserve (r=−0.68; P=0.001 adjusted for age, sex, and mean arterial pressure) but not global CBF (r=0.13; P=0.60). Brachial pulse pressure was not associated with lower cerebrovascular reserve (r=−0.37; P=0.159) when adjusted for age and sex. These data indicate that the age-related increases in aortic stiffness may contribute, in part, to the brain’s impaired ability to augment blood flow in response to a stimulus with aging in humans.

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