Objective: To examine the effect of diurnal blood pressure changes upon cerebrovascular damage in elderly patients with hypertension.
Design: Fifty-four asymptomatic hypertensive and 34 normotensive elderly subjects underwent both 24-h non-invasive ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and brain magnetic resonance imaging. METHODS. Diurnal variation was defined as a difference of greater than or equal to 10 mmHg between mean awake and asleep systolic blood pressure. Hypertensives were thus classified as dippers or non-dippers. Low intense foci (lacunae) and advanced periventricular hyperintensity were identified as silent cerebrovascular damage.
Results: In the hypertensive group, lacunae were correlated more closely with mean asleep systolic blood pressure than with mean awake systolic blood pressure. Age, awake blood pressure, predicted whole blood viscosity, lipid profiles or quantity of sleep did not differ between the hypertensive dippers or non-dippers. The non-dippers, however, showed significantly higher grades of cerebrovascular damage as well as cardiac hypertrophy by electrocardiography than the dippers, whose results were similar to those of normotensives in this regard.
Conclusions: An absent or lower nocturnal blood pressure fall in elderly hypertensives is associated with silent cerebrovascular damage. In contrast, the presence of a nocturnal fall could prevent the development of hypertensive vascular damage.