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Stroke. 1994 Feb;25(2):318-27.

Magnetic resonance abnormalities and cardiovascular disease in older adults. The Cardiovascular Health Study.

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Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892.



Cerebral magnetic resonance imaging often detects abnormalities whose significance is unknown. The prevalence and correlates of findings such as ventricular enlargement, sulcal widening, and increased white matter signal intensity were examined in 303 men and women aged 65 to 95 years participating in a multicenter study of cardiovascular disease.


Cerebral magnetic resonance imaging was performed and interpreted according to a standard protocol, and findings were correlated with measures of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors.


Measures of cerebral atrophy increased with age and were greater in men than in women (each P < .01). Ventricular enlargement and sulcal widening were associated with prior stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and white race (each P < .03). Extent of white matter hyperintensity was associated with age, prior stroke, hypertension, and use of diuretics (each P < .004). On multivariate analysis, age, male gender, white race, and prior stroke retained strong associations with increased ventricular and sulcal scores. After adjustment for age, prior stroke, and other risk factors, white matter hyperintensity was associated with atherosclerosis as measured by increased internal carotid artery thickness on ultrasound.


Cerebral atrophy and white matter hyperintensity are common in the elderly and are associated with age, prior stroke, and known cardiovascular risk factors. Though these findings have been suggested to represent normal aging, their wide variability and associations with cardiovascular disease argue against their inevitability with advancing age and support the need to identify modifiable risk factors for these abnormalities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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