Silent cerebral white matter lesions in middle-aged essential hypertensive patients

J Hypertens. 2002 Mar;20(3):519-24. doi: 10.1097/00004872-200203000-00028.


Objective: Age, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and a history of cardiovascular disease are the most important factors related to the presence of cerebral white matter lesions (WML), which are a common finding in elderly people. This study investigates which factors related to hypertension per se are associated with the presence of WML in asymptomatic, middle-aged, never-treated essential hypertensive patients.

Methods: A total of 66 untreated essential hypertensive patients of both genders, aged 50-60 years, with neither diabetes mellitus nor evidence of cardiovascular disease, were studied. Hypertensive patients were classified into two groups according to the presence or absence of WML in brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Results: A total of 39 (59.1%) hypertensives showed no WML in brain MRI, and 27 (40.9%) exhibited the presence of WML. Compared with hypertensives without WML, patients with WML showed significantly higher values of both office and 24 h ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) systolic, diastolic, mean and pulse pressure. No differences were observed in either the nocturnal fall of blood pressure, or in blood pressure variability, assessed by 24 h standard deviation, among hypertensives with WML. In contrast, the nocturnal decline of heart rate was significantly blunted in patients with WML, compared with those without WML.

Conclusions: Cerebral white matter lesions are a common finding in asymptomatic middle-aged essential hypertensives. The severity of blood pressure elevation seems to be the most important factor related to the presence of WML. Neither the circadian rhythm nor the long-term variability of blood pressure were related to WML.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure Determination / methods
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits
  • Severity of Illness Index