Cardiovascular biomarkers and subclinical brain disease in the atherosclerosis risk in communities study

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Background and purpose: Cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors. Our goal was to determine whether levels of N-terminal brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and cardiac troponin T measured with a highly sensitive assay (hs-cTnT) are associated with silent brain infarcts (BIs) and white matter lesions (WMLs) on MRI in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.
Methods: At ARIC visit 3 (1993-1995), 1920 participants had brain MRI. NT-proBNP and hs-cTnT were measured in all individuals at ARIC visit 4 (1996-1998). Of 1920 individuals, 1112 had a follow-up MRI [2004-2006]). We analyzed the association of NT-proBNP and hs-cTnT with MRI-defined BI and WML on the initial MRI and incident BI and WML progression on the follow-up MRI in participants without heart failure, coronary heart disease, or stroke.
Results: In the adjusted model, individuals in the highest NT-proBNP quartile had significantly more BI (odds ratio, 3.50; 95% confidence interval, 2.03-6.20), and WML (β-coefficient, 0.09; SE, 0.03) on the baseline MRI and more incident BI (odds ratio, 2.18; 95% confidence interval, 1.38-3.47) and WML progression (β-coefficient, 0.22; SE, 0.10) on the follow-up MRI. Individuals in the highest hs-cTnT category had more BI (odds ratio, 3.03; 95% confidence interval, 1.57-5.82) and WML (β-coefficient, 0.11; SE, 0.04) on the initial MRI and more WML progression (β-coefficient, 0.43; SE, 0.17) on the follow-up MRI.
Conclusions: NT-proBNP and hs-cTnT are independently associated with silent MRI-defined BI and WML, suggesting that cardiovascular biomarkers may be useful to identify individuals with subclinical cerebral injury.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.