High blood pressure (BP) negatively affects brain structure and function. Hypertension is associated with white matter hyperintensities, cognitive and mobility impairment in late-life. However, the impact of BP exposure from young adulthood on brain structure and function in mid-life is unclear. Identifying early brain structural changes associated with BP exposure, before clinical onset of cognitive dysfunction and mobility impairment, is essential for understanding mechanisms and developing interventions. We examined the effect of cumulative BP exposure from young adulthood on brain structure in a substudy of 144 (61 female) individuals from the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study. At year 30 (Y30, ninth visit), participants (56±4 years old) completed brain magnetic resonance imaging and gait measures (pace, rhythm, and postural control). Cumulative systolic and diastolic BP (cumulative systolic blood pressure, cDBP) over 9 visits were calculated, multiplying mean values between 2 consecutive visits by years between visits. Surface-based analysis of basal ganglia and thalamus was achieved using FreeSurfer-initiated Large Deformation Diffeomorphic Metric Mapping. Morphometric changes were regressed onto cumulative BP to localize regions of shape variation. Y30 white matter hyperintensity volumes were small and positively correlated with cumulative BP but not gait. Negative morphometric associations with cumulative systolic blood pressure were seen in the caudate, putamen, nucleus accumbens, pallidum, and thalamus. A concave right medial putamen shape mediated the relationship between cumulative systolic blood pressure and stride width. Basal ganglia and thalamic morphometric changes, rather than volumes, may be earlier manifestation of gray matter structural signatures of BP exposure that impact midlife gait.
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© 2020 American Heart Association, Inc.
- Basal ganglia
- Blood pressure
- Magnetic resonance imaging