Late-life blood pressure association with cerebrovascular and Alzheimer disease pathology

Neurology. 2018 Aug 7;91(6):e517-e525. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005951. Epub 2018 Jul 11.


Objective: To examine associations of average and change in late-life blood pressure (BP) with cerebrovascular and Alzheimer disease (AD) neuropathology in a large group of decedents followed longitudinally in vivo.

Methods: This clinical-pathologic study was derived from prospective, community-based cohort studies of aging with similar design and data collection. Measurements of systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP) were obtained annually (mean follow-up 8 years, SD = 4.8). Postmortem neuropathologic evaluations documented diseases of aging. Using regression analyses, we examined associations of average and decline in late-life SBP, and separately in DBP, with neuropathology.

Results: In 1,288 persons (mean age at death = 88.6 years; 65% women), the mean standardized person-specific SBP across the study was 134 (SD = 13) and DBP was 71 (SD = 8) mm Hg. The odds of brain infarcts were increased for participants with a higher mean SBP. Specifically, a person with a 1 SD SBP above the mean (147 vs 134 mm Hg) would have a 46% increased odds of having one or more infarcts, and an increased odds of gross infarct (46%) and microinfarct (36%). Furthermore, a more rapidly declining SBP slope over time increased the odds of one or more infarcts. Mean DBP, not slope, was related to brain infarcts. AD pathology analyses showed an association of a higher mean SBP with higher number of tangles (p = 0.038) but not plaques or other pathology (all p > 0.06). Changes in BP were not significantly related to AD pathology.

Conclusions: Higher average late-life SBP and DBP, and independently a faster decline in SBP, are associated with increasing number of brain infarcts, including gross and microinfarcts. We found some evidence for a relation of SBP with AD, specifically tangles. Both average and decline in BP are related to brain disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / pathology*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors