Cardiometabolic risk factors associated with brain age and accelerate brain ageing

Hum Brain Mapp. 2021 Oct 9. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25680. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The structure and integrity of the ageing brain is interchangeably linked to physical health, and cardiometabolic risk factors (CMRs) are associated with dementia and other brain disorders. In this mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal study (interval mean = 19.7 months), including 790 healthy individuals (mean age = 46.7 years, 53% women), we investigated CMRs and health indicators including anthropometric measures, lifestyle factors, and blood biomarkers in relation to brain structure using MRI-based morphometry and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). We performed tissue specific brain age prediction using machine learning and performed Bayesian multilevel modeling to assess changes in each CMR over time, their respective association with brain age gap (BAG), and their interaction effects with time and age on the tissue-specific BAGs. The results showed credible associations between DTI-based BAG and blood levels of phosphate and mean cell volume (MCV), and between T1-based BAG and systolic blood pressure, smoking, pulse, and C-reactive protein (CRP), indicating older-appearing brains in people with higher cardiometabolic risk (smoking, higher blood pressure and pulse, low-grade inflammation). Longitudinal evidence supported interactions between both BAGs and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and between DTI-based BAG and systolic blood pressure and smoking, indicating accelerated ageing in people with higher cardiometabolic risk (smoking, higher blood pressure, and WHR). The results demonstrate that cardiometabolic risk factors are associated with brain ageing. While randomized controlled trials are needed to establish causality, our results indicate that public health initiatives and treatment strategies targeting modifiable cardiometabolic risk factors may also improve risk trajectories and delay brain ageing.

Keywords: DTI; T1 MRI; brain age; cardiometabolic risk.