In people with multiple sclerosis (MS) under age 50, the presence of cardiovascular risk factors is associated with a greater loss of brain volume, including white and grey matter, a study showed.
The data also showed that the presence of at least two cardiovascular risk factors had effects comparable to exposure to a more stringent risk factor. Those findings highlight the need for clinicians to closely monitor and discuss cardiovascular risk factors and lifestyle changes with MS patients, the researchers said.
The study, “Cardiovascular risk factors affect brain volume in young MS patients” (abstract #PS04.05), was presented by Raffaello Bonacchi, MD, of the Institute of Experimental Neurology at the IRCCS San Raffaele Scientific Institute, in Italy, in an oral presentation at the MSVirtual2020, held online Sept. 11–13.
This was the 8th joint meeting of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) and European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS).
Increasing evidence suggests that cardiovascular risk factors are associated with clinical and MRI changes reflecting worse disease outcomes in people with MS. In particular, a previous study found that diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and active smoking were linked to a greater loss of brain volume — also called atrophy or shrinkage — in MS patients.
However, “previous studies have not set an age limit” in their analyses, Bonacchi said, noting that “older patients may be affected by cerebral small vessel disease-related damage in addition to MS.” In addition, the impact of different exposures to each cardiovascular risk factor has not been assessed.
That led the researchers at the Institute of Experimental Neurology to evaluate the impact of cardiovascular risk factors on brain atrophy and lesion volume in MS patients under the age of 50.
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