Arterial stiffening is associated with cognitive impairment and prodromal Alzheimer's disease. This study tested the interaction between arterial stiffening and an Alzheimer's disease genetic risk factor (apolipoprotein E [APOE] genotype) on cognition among older adults. Vanderbilt Memory & Aging Project participants with normal cognition (n = 162, 72 ± 7 years, 29% APOE-ε4 carrier) and mild cognitive impairment (n = 121, 73 ± 8 years, 42% APOE-ε4 carrier) completed neuropsychological assessment and cardiac MRI to assess aortic stiffening using pulse wave velocity (PWV, m/s). Linear regression models stratified by cognitive diagnosis related aortic PWV × APOE-ε4 status to neuropsychological performances, adjusting for demographic and vascular risk factors. PWV × APOE-ε4 related to poorer performance on measures of lexical retrieval (β = -0.29, p = 0.01), executive function (β = -0.44, p = 0.02), and episodic memory (β = -3.07, p = 0.02). Among participants with higher aortic PWV, APOE-ε4 modified the association between central arterial stiffening and cognition, such that carriers had worse performances than noncarriers. Findings add to a growing body of evidence for APOE-vascular interactions on cognition in older adults and warrant further research into less heart-healthy cohorts where the association between PWV and cognition among older adults might be stronger.
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