Cerebral Perfusion and the Risk of Dementia: A Population-Based Study

Circulation. 2017 Aug 22;136(8):719-728. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.027448. Epub 2017 Jun 6.


Background: Cerebral hypoperfusion has previously been associated with mild cognitive impairment and dementia in various cross-sectional studies, but whether hypoperfusion precedes neurodegeneration is unknown. We prospectively determined the association of cerebral perfusion with subsequent cognitive decline and development of dementia.

Methods: Between 2005 and 2012, we measured cerebral blood flow by 2-dimensional phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging in participants of the population-based Rotterdam Study without dementia. We determined the association of cerebral perfusion (mL/100mL/min) with risk of dementia (until 2015) using a Cox model, adjusting for age, sex, demographics, cardiovascular risk factors, and apolipoprotein E genotype. We repeated analyses for Alzheimer disease and accounting for stroke. We used linear regression to determine change in cognitive performance during 2 consecutive examination rounds in relation to perfusion. Finally, we investigated whether associations were modified by baseline severity of white matter hyperintensities.

Results: Of 4759 participants (median age 61.3 years, 55.2% women) with a median follow-up of 6.9 years, 123 participants developed dementia (97 Alzheimer disease). Lower cerebral perfusion was associated with higher risk of dementia (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.31; 95% confidence interval per standard deviation decrease, 1.07-1.61), similar for Alzheimer disease only, and unaltered by accounting for stroke. Risk of dementia with hypoperfusion was higher with increasing severity of white matter hyperintensities (with severe white matter hyperintensities; hazard ratio, 1.54; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-2.14). At cognitive reexamination after on average 5.7 years, lower baseline perfusion was associated with accelerated decline in cognition (global cognition: β=-0.029, P=0.003), which was similar after excluding those with incident dementia, and again most profound in individuals with higher volume of white matter hyperintensities (P value for interaction=0.019).

Conclusions: Cerebral hypoperfusion is associated with accelerated cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia in the general population.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; cerebral blood flow; cerebral perfusion; dementia; epidemiology; small-vessel disease.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dementia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • White Matter / blood supply*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • White Matter / physiopathology