Carotid Intima-Media Thickness Is Associated With White Matter Hyperintensities: The Northern Manhattan Study

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Background and Purpose—Brain white matter hyperintensities (WMH) have been associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive decline, and dementia. WMH can be a manifestation of small vessel disease, although the total microvascular contribution to multifactorial WMH pathophysiology remains unknown. We hypothesized a possible relationship between carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT), an ultrasound imaging marker of subclinical vascular disease, and brain WMH in a multiethnic, elderly stroke-free community-based cohort.Methods—We evaluated the relationship between cIMT and WMH in the population-based Northern Manhattan Study, among individuals free of stroke. We used linear regression to examine the association of continuous measures of cIMT with quantitatively derived WMH volume, as a proportion of cranial volume, measured from fluid-attenuaded inversion recovery magnetic resonance imaging while adjusting for sociodemographics, lifestyle, and vascular risk factors.Results—In a cohort of 1229 participants (mean age, 71±9 years; 60% women, 15% White; 18% Black; 65% Hispanics), the mean cIMT was 0.71±0.08 mm and the median log-transformed WMH volume was 0.36 (interquartile range, 0.21–0.76). In a multivariable model, larger cIMT was significantly associated with greater WMH volume (β=0.046 per SD cIMT; P=0.04). Age and race/ethnicity were significant modifiers (P for age, 0.02; and P for race/ethnicity, 0.04). cIMT was associated with WMH volume in participants 70 years or older (β=0.088 per SD cIMT; P=0.01) and among Hispanics (β=0.084 per SD cIMT; P=0.003).Conclusions—Larger cIMT was associated with greater burden of cerebral WM lesions independently of demographics and traditional vascular risk factors, particularly among elderly and Hispanic participants, who are at high risk for stroke and cognitive decline.

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