Silent cerebral microbleeds (MBs) are a common finding in stroke patients, especially those with intracerebral hemorrhage, and are thought to be a marker of future cerebral hemorrhage. Clinically, two distinct forms of MBs have been documented, those observed with either or both stroke or small vessel disease (SVD) and those associated with cerebral amyloid angiopathy. We investigated a possible association between MBs and arterial stiffness in a general population. Subjects were 443 apparently healthy individuals with a mean age of 67.1+/-8.1 years. The presence of MBs, lacunar infarcts and periventricular hyperintensity (PVH) was determined by 3-tesla magnetic resonance imaging. Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) was measured by ultrasonography. Arterial stiffness was evaluated by brachial-to-ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV), and the Framingham stroke risk score (FSRS) was obtained as an integrated cerebrovascular risk factor. The prevalence of MBs was 5.0%. Both baPWV and FSRS were significantly higher in subjects with MBs (1820+/-308 vs. 1645+/-325 cm/s, P=0.014 and 12.1+/-8.6 vs. 8.9+/-7.5%, P=0.047, respectively). Odds ratio of a high baPWV, defined as >or=1500 cm/s, for the presence of MBs was 6.05 even after correction for confounding parameters, including age and hypertension. This association with high baPWV remained irrespective of MBs location, whether strictly located in the lobes or in the basal ganglia and infratentorial regions. These findings indicate an association between arterial stiffness and the presence of MBs. Assessment of arterial stiffness may be useful in identifying subjects at high risk for the presence of MBs.