Objective: To investigate the associations between age, vascular health, and Alzheimer disease (AD) imaging biomarkers in an elderly sample. Methods: We identified 430 individuals along the cognitive continuum aged >60 years with amyloid positron emission tomography (PET), tau PET, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans from the population-based Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. A subset of 329 individuals had fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET. We ascertained presently existing cardiovascular and metabolic conditions (CMC) from health care records and used the summation of presence/absence of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, and stroke as a surrogate for vascular health. We used global amyloid from Pittsburgh compound B PET, entorhinal cortex tau uptake (ERC-tau) from tau-PET, and neurodegeneration in AD signature regions from MRI and FDG-PET as surrogates for AD pathophysiology. We dichotomized participants into CMC = 0 (CMC−) versus CMC > 0 (CMC+) and tested for age-adjusted group differences in AD biomarkers. Using structural equation models (SEMs), we assessed the impact of vascular health on AD biomarker cascade (amyloid leads to tau leads to neurodegeneration) after considering the direct and indirect age, sex, and apolipoprotein E effects. Results: CMC+ participants had significantly greater neurodegeneration than CMC− participants but did not differ by amyloid or ERC-tau. The SEMs showed that (1) vascular health had a significant direct and indirect impact on neurodegeneration but not on amyloid; and (2) vascular health, specifically the presence of hyperlipidemia, had a significant direct impact on ERC-tau. Interpretation: Vascular health had quantifiably greater impact on neurodegeneration in AD regions than on amyloid deposition. Longitudinal studies are warranted to clarify the relationship between tau deposition and vascular health. Ann Neurol 2017;82:706–718.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology