Comprehensive allostatic load risk index is associated with increased frontal and left parietal white matter hyperintensities in mid-life cognitively healthy adults.
Buller-Peralta I., Gregory S., Low A., Dounavi M-E., Bridgeman K., Ntailianis G., Lawlor B., Naci L., Koychev I., Malhotra P., O'Brien JT., Ritchie CW., Muniz-Terrera G.
To date, there is a considerable heterogeneity of methods to score Allostatic Load (AL). Here we propose a comprehensive algorithm (ALCS) that integrates commonly used approaches to generate AL risk categories and assess associations to brain structure deterioration. In a cohort of cognitively normal mid-life adults (n = 620, age 51.3 ± 5.48 years), we developed a comprehensive composite for AL scoring incorporating gender and age differences, high quartile approach, clinical reference values, and current medications, to then generate AL risk categories. Compared to the empirical approach (ALES), ALCS showed better model fit criteria and a strong association with age and sex. ALSC categories were regressed against brain and white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volumes. Higher AL risk categories were associated with increased total, periventricular, frontal, and left parietal WMH volumes, also showing better fit compared to ALES. When cardiovascular biomarkers were removed from the ALSC algorithm, only left-frontal WMHV remained associated with AL, revealing a strong vascular burden influencing the index. Our results agree with previous evidence and suggest that sustained stress exposure enhances brain deterioration in mid-life adults. Showing better fit than ALES, our comprehensive algorithm can provide a more accurate AL estimation to explore how stress exposure enhances age-related health decline.