OBJECTIVES:

To preliminarily examine the association between cardiac output, a measure of systemic blood flow, and structural brain magnetic resonance imaging indices of white matter hyperintensities (WMHs).

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional.

SETTING:

University medical setting.

PARTICIPANTS:

Thirty-six older adults without dementia with prevalent cardiovascular disease (aged 56-85).

MEASUREMENTS:

Cardiac output, WMHs.

RESULTS:

Partial correlations, adjusting for age and history of hypertension, yielded an inverse relationship between WMHs adjacent to subcortical nuclei and cardiac output (correlation coefficient=-0.48, P=.03); as cardiac output decreased, WMHs increased significantly. No significant associations were found between cardiac output and total WMHs or periventricular WMHs.

CONCLUSION:

These preliminary data suggest that systemic blood flow, measured according to cardiac output, is inversely associated with WMHs adjacent to the subcortical nuclei. Cerebrovascular degeneration and the chronicity of hypoperfusion may exacerbate the susceptibility of white matter integrity to alterations in blood flow in older adults.