Baseline Results: The Association between Cardiovascular Risk and Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease Pathology (ASCEND) Study

Veena V. Kumar, Hanfeng Huang, Liping Zhao, Danielle D. Verble, Alexandra Nutaitis, Sonum D. Tharwani, Alexandra L. Brown, Henrik Zetterberg, William Hu, Ryan Shin, Patrick G. Kehoe, Arshed Quyyumi, Joe Nocera, Andrea Kippels, Whitney Wharton

Publication Date: 01/01/2020

Background: The rate of AD for African Americans (AAs) is 64% higher than for non-Hispanic White Americans (Whites). It is hypothesized that poor peripheral vascular function, in combination with genetics, stress, and inflammation may directly contribute to the accumulation of AD pathologic biomarkers. These risk factors may disproportionately affect AAs. Objective: Our objective was to determine if in a healthy middle-aged cohort at risk for AD (1) AD biomarkers in CSF differ by race, (2) peripheral vascular dysfunction and cognition are related to a higher burden of CSF AD biomarkers, and (3) these relationships differ by race. Methods: We enrolled 82 cognitively normal, middle-aged (45 and older) adults including AAs and Whites at high risk for AD due to parental history. Study procedures included lumbar puncture, vascular ultrasound, and cognitive testing. Results: While participants were in overall good health, AAs exhibited poorer indices of preclinical vascular health, including higher central SBP, central MAP, and EndoPAT AI, a marker of arterial stiffness. AAs also had significantly less cerebrospinal fluid tau burden than Whites. After polynomial regression analysis, adjusted for age, gender, education, and ApoE4 status, race significantly modified the relationship between total tau, phospho-tau, and Trails B, a marker of executive function. Small differences in tau correlated with poorer cognition in AAs. Conclusion: In a healthy middle-aged cohort at risk for AD, AAs had worse peripheral vascular health and worse cognition than Whites. Despite lower tau burden overall, race modified the relationship between tau and cognition, such that small differences in tau between AAs was related to worse cognition when compared to Whites.