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Hypertension. 2004 Nov;44(5):625-30. Epub 2004 Oct 4.

The association between blood pressure, hypertension, and cerebral white matter lesions: cardiovascular determinants of dementia study.

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Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


Cerebral white matter lesions are frequently observed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in elderly people and are associated with stroke and dementia. Elevated blood pressure is presumed one of the main risk factors, although data are almost exclusively derived from cross-sectional studies. We assessed in 10 European cohorts the relation between concurrently and previously measured blood pressure levels, hypertension, its treatment, and severe cerebral white matter lesions. In total, 1805 nondemented subjects aged 65 to 75 years were sampled from ongoing community-based studies that were initiated 5 to 20 years before the MRI. White matter lesions in the periventricular and subcortical region were rated separately using semiquantitative measures. We performed logistic regression analyses adjusted for potential confounders in 1625 people with complete data. Concurrently and formerly assessed diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels were positively associated with severe white matter lesions. Both increases and decreases in diastolic blood pressure were associated with more severe periventricular white matter lesions. Increase in systolic blood pressure levels was associated with more severe periventricular and subcortical white matter lesions. People with poorly controlled hypertension had a higher risk of severe white matter lesions than those without hypertension, or those with controlled or untreated hypertension. Higher blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of severe white matter lesions. Successful treatment of hypertension may reduce this risk; however, a potential negative effect of decreasing diastolic blood pressure level on the occurrence of severe periventricular white matter lesions should be taken into account.

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