Cardiovascular Risk Factors and White Matter Hyperintensities: Difference in Susceptibility in South Asians Compared With Europeans

Carole H. Sudre, Lorna Smith, David Atkinson, Nish Chaturvedi, S. bastien Ourselin, Frederik Barkhof, Alun D. Hughes, H. Rolf Jäger, M. Jorge Cardoso

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Background—Cardiovascular risk factors vary between ethnicities but little is known about their differential effects on white matter hyperintensities (WMH), an indicator of brain aging and burden of cerebrovascular disease. Methods and Results—Brain magnetic resonance imaging scans from 213 people of South Asian and 256 of European ethnicity (total=469) were analyzed for global and regional WMH load. Associations with cardiovascular risk factors and a composite cardiovascular risk score (National Cholesterol Education Programme Adult Treatment Panel III) were compared by ethnicity, diabetes mellitus, smoking, and hypertension status. Distributional patterns of WMH were similar by ethnicity but the vulnerability to specific risk factors differed. Associations between WMH and age or National Cholesterol Education Programme Adult Treatment Panel III scores were stronger in South Asians compared with Europeans. For instance, a year of age led to an excess of 3.8% (confidence interval=[0.2, 7.6]; P=0.04) of WMH load in frontal regions in South Asians compared with Europeans. In the diabetic subgroup, South Asians had more WMH than Europeans (+63.3%, confidence interval=[14.1, 133.9]; P=0.007), particularly in the deeper regions (+102% confidence interval=[24, 329]; P=0.004). In the population as a whole, diabetes mellitus was not, or only weakly, related to an increase in WMH volume (12.4%, confidence interval=[‒10.7, 41.3]; P=0.32), and diabetes mellitus duration was a positive predictor of frontal periventricular WMH load in Europeans but not in South Asians. In turn, diastolic blood pressure was positively associated with WMH volumes in South Asians but not in Europeans. Hypertension was not associated with WMH load (P=0.9). Conclusions—Distribution patterns of WMH are similar in South Asians and Europeans but older age and higher cardiovascular risk are associated with more WMH in South Asians.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere010533
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2018

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