Background Associations between subtle changes in cardiac and cerebral structure and function are not well understood, with some studies suggesting that subclinical cardiac changes may be associated with markers of vascular brain insult. Methods and Results Data from the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) Study (5th ARIC visit; 2011-2013; N=1974) were used to explore relationships between abnormalities of cardiac structure/function and subclinical brain disease and to test specific associations between those cardiac and vascular brain changes that share a common mechanism. In adjusted models white matter hyperintensities were 0.66 cm3 greater (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08-1.25) for every 1-mm increase in left ventricular LV wall thickness and 0.64 cm3 greater (95% CI 0.19-1.08) for every 10 g/m2 increase in LV mass index, both markers of LV structure. Odds of brain infarction also increased with greater LV wall thickness (odds ratio 1.11, 95% CI 1.01-1.23 per 1 mm) and larger LV mass (odds ratio 1.08, 95% CI 1.00-1.17 per 10 g/m2). Higher ejection fraction (per 5%), a marker of systolic function, was significantly associated with decreased odds of overall infarct (odds ratio 0.85, 95% CI 0.77-0.95), but not with cortical infarction (odds ratio 0.92, 95% CI 0.78-1.08). Conclusions Among elderly participants in a large cohort study, subclinical markers of LV structure and LV systolic dysfunction were associated with increased odds of brain infarction and more white matter hyperintensities, independent of other vascular risk factors. This suggests end-organ dysfunction occurs in the heart and brain in parallel, with further studies needed to determine causality.
Keywords: brain infarction; cardiology; echocardiography; white matter disease.