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Heart failure (HF) patients are at risk for structural brain changes due to cerebral hypoperfusion. Past work shows obesity is linked with reduced cerebral blood flow and associated with brain atrophy in healthy individuals, although its effects on the brain in HF are unclear. This study examined the association among body mass index (BMI), cerebral perfusion, and brain volume in HF patients.


Eighty HF patients underwent transcranial Doppler sonography to quantify cerebral blood flow velocity of the middle cerebral artery (CBF-V of the MCA) and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to quantify total brain, total and subcortical gray matter, white matter volume, and white matter hyperintensities. Body mass index (BMI) operationalized weight status. Nearly 45% of HF patients exhibited a BMI consistent with obesity. Regression analyses adjusting for medical variables, demographic characteristics, and CBF-V of the MCA, showed increased BMI was associated with reduced white matter volume (p < .05). BMI also interacted with cerebral perfusion to impact total gray matter volume, but this pattern did not emerge for any other MRI indices (p < 0.05).


Our findings suggest increased BMI negatively affects brain volume in HF, and higher BMI interacts with cerebral perfusion to impact gray matter volume. The mechanisms for these findings remain unclear and likely involve multiple physiological processes. Prospective studies are needed to elucidate the exact pattern and rates of brain changes in obese HF persons.