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Intracranial atherosclerotic disease (ICAD) is an important cause of stroke; however, little is known about racial differences in ICAD prevalence and its risk factors.To determine racial differences in ICAD prevalence and the risk factors (both midlife and concurrent) associated with its development in a large, US community-based cohort.Analysis of 1752 black and white participants recruited from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort study who underwent 3-dimensional intracranial vessel wall magnetic resonance imaging from October 18, 2011 to December 30, 2013; data analysis was performed from October 18, 2011 to May 13, 2015.Midlife and concurrent cardiovascular risk factors.Intracranial plaque presence, size (maximum normalized wall index) and number were assessed by vessel wall magnetic resonance imaging. Midlife and concurrent vascular risk factor associations were determined by Poisson regression (plaque presence), negative binominal regression (plaque number), and linear regression (plaque size), and compared between races.Of the 1752 study participants (mean [SD] age, 77.6 [5.3] years; range, 67-90 years), 1023 (58.4%) were women and 518 (29.6%) were black. Black men had the highest prevalence (50.9% vs 35.9% for black women, 35.5% for white men, and 30.2% for white women; P < .001) and the highest frequency (22.4% vs 12.1% for black women, 10.7% for white men, and 8.7% for white women; P < .01) of multiple plaques. Prevalence increased with age, reaching 50% before ages 68, 84, and 88 years in black men, white men, and white women, respectively (ICAD prevalence remained <50% in black women). Midlife hypertension and hyperlipidemia were associated with 29% (prevalence ratio [PR], 1.29; 95% CI, 1.08-1.55) and 18% (PR, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.98-1.42), respectively, increased ICAD prevalence with no significant differences between races. Midlife hypertension was also associated with larger plaques (1.11 higher mean maximum normalized wall index; 95% CI, 0.21-2.01). Midlife smoking and diabetes were associated with increased risk of ICAD in black individuals (102% [PR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.12-3.63] and 57% [PR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.13- 2.19], respectively), but not in white participants (P < .05 interaction by race).The prevalence of ICAD was highest in black men. Midlife smoking and diabetes were strongly associated with late-life ICAD in blacks only, whereas midlife hypertension and hyperlipidemia were associated with late-life ICAD in both races. These associations may help to explain racial differences in US stroke rates and offer insight into preventive risk-factor management strategies.