Cardiometabolic risk refers to a set of interconnected factors of vascular and metabolic origin associated with both cardiovascular disease and various brain disorders. Although midlife cardiometabolic risk is associated with future brain dysfunction, emerging evidence suggests that alterations in autonomic and central nervous system function may precede increases in cardiometabolic risk.
The present study tested whether patterns of cerebral blood flow in brain areas associated with autonomic regulation were associated with increases in overall cardiometabolic risk. A community sample of 109 adults with resting systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 mm Hg, or both underwent pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling to quantify cerebral blood flow responses to cognitively challenging tasks. Cardiometabolic risk and cerebral blood flow measurements were collected at baseline and at a 2-year follow-up.
Regression analyses showed that greater frontostriatal cerebral blood flow responses to cognitive challenge were associated with higher cardiometabolic risk at follow-up (β = 0.26 [95% confidence interval = 0.07 to 0.44], t = 2.81, p = .006, ΔR2 = 0.04). These findings were specific to frontostriatal brain regions, as frontoparietal, insular-subcortical, and total cerebral blood flow were not associated with progression of cardiometabolic risk. Moreover, cardiometabolic risk was not associated with frontostriatal cerebral blood flow responses 2 years later.
Frontostriatal brain function may precede and possibly forecast the progression of cardiometabolic risk.