High blood pressure and heart disease are linked to greater loss of brain mass, or atrophy in white matter and whole brain volume, in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a study following patients for five years shows.
No association between cardiovascular disease and an increased number of brain lesions was found. Still, better management of these conditions may improve outcomes for MS patients in the long-term, its researchers say.
The study, “Hypertension and heart disease are associated with development of brain atrophy in multiple sclerosis: a 5-year longitudinal study,” was published in the journal European Journal of Neurology.
MS patients are more prone to develop cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure or hypertension, than the public at large. These conditions, in turn, are increasingly being associated with worse disease outcomes. Some studies suggested that MS patients with cardiovascular problems also show more extensive brain lesions and lower brain volumes.
Up to now, however, studies have not been able to draw clear conclusions.
A team of researchers at the University at Buffalo, New York, set out to determine the influence of cardiovascular diseases on the clinical outcomes and severity of brain lesions and atrophy in a large sample of MS patients followed for a long-term.
They examined 194 MS patients and 43 controls (without neurological disease); all were enrolled in an early study of the cardiovascular, environmental and genetic (CEG) risk factors in MS.
Patients were followed for a mean period of 5.4 years. Changes in brain lesions and brain volume were measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
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