Elevated triglyceride levels, but not other lipid fractions, were associated with MRI markers of cerebral small vessel disease in older adults, which is thought to predict stroke and dementia risk, according to researchers.

Stéphanie Debette, MD, PhD, of the Department of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined the cross-sectional association between lipid fractions and two MRI markers of cerebral small vessel disease, white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV) and lacunes, in a study published in Neurology.

The study included 2,608 participants from four studies, including the 3C-Dijon Study (n = 1,842), the Epidemiology of Vascular Aging Study (n =766) and two French population-based cohorts (mean age 72.8 and 68.9 years; 60.1% and 58.4% women, respectively).

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The researchers examined triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and WMHV, in analyses that adjusted for age and sex.

Increasing triglycerides were significantly associated with larger WMHV and higher frequency of lacunes across all cohorts independently and in combined analyses, the researchers found.

These associations were present both in participants who were taking and those who were not taking lipid-lowering drugs, but tended to be stronger in the oldest quartile of patients.

“Increasing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol tended to be associated with a decreased frequency and severity of all MRI markers of cerebral small vessel disease in both studies,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Schilling S et al. Neurology. 2014; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000980.