Age-related changes in white matter lesions, hippocampal atrophy, and cerebral microbleeds in healthy subjects without major cerebrovascular risk factors

Monzurul H Chowdhury, Atsushi Nagai, Hirokazu Bokura, Eisuke Nakamura, Shotai Kobayashi, Shuhei Yamaguchi
Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases: the Official Journal of National Stroke Association 2011, 20 (4): 302-9
Although cumulative evidence indicates that risk factors for arteriosclerosis have an impact on age-related changes in brain pathology, the influence of aging without major risk factors on changes in brain structures has not yet been fully elucidated. We used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study how aging affects structural changes in the brain (eg, white matter lesions, hippocampal atrophy [HA], microbleeds) in normal subjects without major risk factors for cerebrovascular diseases. We studied 1108 subjects who underwent voluntary brain screening and had no cerebrovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or hyperlipidemia. We examined the conventional and T2-weighted MRI to define white matter hyperintensities, HA, and cerebral microbleeds in addition to all physical parameters, blood biochemical data, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. We found that the prevalence of white matter lesions and HA increased significantly with age (P < .001). Logistic analysis showed that periventricular hyperintensity was significantly related to age (P < .0001) and depressive state (P < .01). A linear relation was found between white matter lesions and HA (P < .05). Cerebral microbleeds also increased with age, and their presence was associated with HA (P < .001). White matter lesions, HA, and cortical microbleeds were associated with one another in healthy elderly subjects, and these changes were affected by the aging process independent of any cerebrovascular risk factors. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy may underlie these age-related brain changes.

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