High prevalence of white matter hyperintensities in normal aging: relation to blood pressure and cognition

Cortex. Sep-Dec 2003;39(4-5):1093-105. doi: 10.1016/s0010-9452(08)70879-7.


The occurrence of cerebral white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), and their associations with blood pressure, episodic memory, and other cognitive tasks, were examined in a population-based sample of 123 individuals between 64 and 74 years old. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) detected subcortical and periventricular hyperintensities in 90% and 67% of the cases, respectively. Subcortical WMHs were related to elevated diastolic blood pressure measured ten years earlier, and periventricular WMHs were related to elevated diastolic blood pressure measured five and ten years earlier. Subcortical hyperintensities were weakly associated with impaired motor speed, but this association was not significant. Periventricular WMHs had a negative effect on episodic memory, although the relation was not linear. Collectively, the notion that white matter hyperintensities impair cognitive function got weak support in this Swedish sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Intelligence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Sweden / epidemiology