Blood pressure, brain structure, and cognition: Opposite associations in men and women

Nicolas Cherbuin, Moyra E. Mortby, Andrew L. Janke, Perminder S. Sachdev, Walter P. Abhayaratna, Kaarin J. Anstey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background Research on associations between blood pressure, brain structure, and cognitive function has produced somewhat inconsistent results. In part, this may be due to differences in age ranges studied and because of sex differences in physiology and/or exposure to risk factors, which may lead to different time course or patterns in cardiovascular disease progression. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of sex on associations between blood pressure, regional cerebral volumes, and cognitive function in older individuals. Methods In this cohort study, brachial blood pressure was measured twice at rest in 266 community-based individuals free of dementia aged 68-73 years who had also undergone a brain scan and a neuropsychological assessment. Associations between mean blood pressure (MAP), regional brain volumes, and cognition were investigated with voxel-wise regression analyses. Results Positive associations between MAP and regional volumes were detected in men, whereas negative associations were found in women. Similarly, there were sex differences in the brain-volume cognition relationship, with a positive relationship between regional brain volumes associated with MAP in men and a negative relationship in women. Conclusions In this cohort of older individuals, higher MAP was associated with larger regional volume and better cognition in men, whereas opposite findings were demonstrated in women. These effects may be due to different lifetime risk exposure or because of physiological differences between men and women. Future studies investigating the relationship between blood pressure and brain structure or cognitive function should evaluate the potential for differential sex effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-231
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Hypertension
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood pressure
  • brain structure
  • cognitive function
  • epidemiology
  • hypertension
  • mean arterial pressure
  • sex

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