Background: Though hypertension is a commonly studied risk factor for white matter lesions (WMLs), measures of blood pressure may fluctuate depending on external conditions resulting in measurement error. Indicators of arterial stiffening and reduced elasticity may be more sensitive indicators of risk for WMLs in aging; however the interdependent nature of vascular indicators creates statistical complications.
Objective: The purpose of the study was to determine whether a factor score comprised of multiple vascular indicators would be a stronger predictor of WMLs than traditional measures of blood pressure.
Methods: In a sample of well-characterized nondemented older adults, we used a factor analytic approach to account for variance common across multiple vascular measures while reducing measurement error. The result was a single factor score reflecting arterial stiffness and reduced elasticity. We used this factor score to predict white matter lesion volumes acquired via fluid attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) magnetic resonance imaging.
Results: The combined vascular factor score was a stronger predictor of deep WML (β = 0.42, p < 0.001) and periventricular WML volumes (β = 0.49, p < 0.001). After accounting for the vascular factor, systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements were not significant predictors.
Conclusions: This suggests that a combined measure of arterial elasticity and stiffening may be a stronger predictor of WMLs than systolic and diastolic blood pressure accounting for the multicollinearity associated with a variety of interrelated vascular measures.
Keywords: Arterial stiffness; factor analysis; magnetic resonance imaging; vascular elasticity; white matter lesions.