Aortic stiffness and hypotension episodes are associated with impaired cognitive function in older subjects with subjective complaints of memory loss

Published:October 14, 2013DOI:



      Though CV risk factors and markers of arterial aging are recognized risky for cognition, no study has simultaneously investigated the impact of multiple cardiac, arterial (large and small vessels), and hemodynamic parameters on cognitive function in older subjects.


      Two hundred eighty older subjects with subjective complaints of memory loss and no previous stroke (mean age 78.3 ± 6.3 years) were studied. Global cognitive function was evaluated with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Cognitive impairment was defined as a MMSE <21. We measured: traditional CV risk factors; aorta stiffness (Pulse Wave Velocity, PWV); LV mass; presence of WML at neuroimaging; episodes of hypotension (SBP <100 mm Hg during 24 h Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring).


      In both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses PWV, WML, and episodes of hypotension were significantly associated with poorer cognitive function—controlling for age, sex, education, depression, traditional CV risk factors, and medications. LV mass was no longer associated with cognition in multiple regression. Older subjects with stiffer arteries or episodes of hypotension presented a 4-fold and an 11-fold, respectively, greater odds for progression from normal cognitive function to cognitive impairment. A synergistic effect between PWV, WML, and hypotension was observed: the occurrence of any two of PWV, WML, or hypotension was accompanied by lower MMSE; in the presence of all three factors, a further significant decline in cognitive function was observed.


      Systemic hemodynamic parameters (higher PWV and hypotension) together with cerebral microvascular damage (WML) are significantly associated with poorer cognitive function and may identify older subjects with subjective complaints of memory loss at higher risk of cognitive decline.


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