The study included 91 people, average age 87, who did not have dementia and underwent scans to assess any beta-amyloid plaques in their brains. The degree of stiffness of their arteries was checked about two years later.
Half of the participants had brain plaques and these people were more likely to have high systolic blood pressure (the top number that shows the amount of pressure on blood vessels when the heart beats), higher average blood pressure and greater arterial stiffness.
For every unit increase in arterial stiffness, people were twice as likely to have beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. Arterial stiffness was highest in people who had both amyloid plaques and lesions in their brain's white matter, according to the study published online Oct. 16 in the journal Neurology.
"This is more evidence that cardiovascular health leads to a healthy brain," study author Timothy Hughes, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a journal news release.
He noted that the link between arterial stiffness and brain plaques did not change when regular resting blood pressure was taken into account.
"This study adds to growing evidence that hardening of the arteries is associated with cerebrovascular disease that does not show symptoms. Now we can add Alzheimer's-type lesions to the list," Hughes said.
Although the study found an association between hardening of the arteries and levels of Alzheimer's-related brain plaque in older adults, it did not establish cause and effect.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about hardening of the arteries.