Presence and severity of cerebral white matter lesions and hypertension, its treatment, and its control: The ARIC study

Duanping Liao, Lawton Cooper, Jianwen Cai, James F. Toole, Nick R. Bryan, Richard G. Hutchinson, Herman A. Tyroler

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398 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: White matter lesions (WML) may result from cerebral hypoperfusion or ischemia. We investigated the association of WML with blood pressure, hypertension, and its treatment and control. Methods: A random sample of 1920 participants aged 55 to 72 years in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) was examined. Spin-density 1.5-T MRI scan images were coded from 0 for normal to 9 for most severe WML. Hypertension was defined as systolic or diastolic pressure ≤149/90 mm Hg or use of antihypertensive medication. Results: The percentages of persons with WML grades 0 through 2 and 3 through 9, respectively, were as follows; normotensive, 92.4% and 7.6%, versus all hypertensive subjects 83% and 17% (P<.001); and treated controlled hypertensive, 86% and 14%, versus treated uncontrolled hypertensive subjects, 76% and 24% (P=.003). Multivariable adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for WML grade ≤3 relative to normotensive subjects was 2.34 (1.7 to 3.20) for all hypertensives, 1.99 (1.19 to 3.08) for untreated hypertensives, 1.94 (1.32 to 2.85) for treated controlled hypertensives, and 3.40 (2.30 to 5.03) for treated uncontrolled hypertensives. After additional adjustment for hypertension duration, treatment, and control status, the odds rations (95% confidence intervals) for a 1 SD increase of systolic and diastolic blood pressure were 1.43 (1.11 to 1.85) and 1.16 (0.94 to 1.43), respectively. Conclusions: Hypertension is associated with increased odds of WML, and treated uncontrolled hypertensive subjects have greater odds of WML than those with treated controlled hypertension. The data suggest that the level of blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, is related to WML, additional to the effects of categorically defined hypertension and its treatment and control status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2262-2270
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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