Background: Cross-sectional studies of the association between hypertension (HTN) and brain atrophy have shown reductions in prefrontal, temporal, and hippocampal volumes, and have identified thinner cortices across the cortical mantle.
Method: In the current study, we followed 96 participants enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging over a mean interval of 8 years (mean age at baseline = 68.7) and compared those who are hypertensive (n = 49) throughout the study with those who are normotensive (n = 47).
Results: Hypertensive individuals show an increased rate of thinning compared with normotensive individuals in several regions, including the frontomarginal gyrus in the left hemisphere, and the superior temporal, fusiform, and lateral orbitofrontal cortex in the right hemisphere. We also investigated the effects of midlife blood pressure (BP), intervisit variability in BP prior to imaging, and duration of HTN on areas that show subsequent differences in the rates of cortical thinning between groups. We found that higher midlife BP and longer durations of HTN predicted a higher rate of thinning in the right superior temporal gyrus. We also found that greater variability in SBP but not DBP predicted a higher rate of thinning in the right superior temporal gyrus, frontomarginal gyrus, and occipital pole.
Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that hypertensive individuals show increased rates of thinning compared with normotensive individuals and suggest intervisit BP variability and midlife BP contribute to these longitudinal differences.