Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Epidemiology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Tatjana Rundek

Second Committee Member

David Lee

Third Committee Member

Ralph Sacco

Fourth Committee Member

Clinton Wright

Fifth Committee Member

Chuanhui Dong


Despite advances, stroke remains the largest cause of disability and fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The relationship between changes in human vasculature (atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis) prior to clinical incident, and other risk factors for stroke remains unclear. This dissertation represents work towards the identification of imaging biomarkers for vascular change, focusing on ultrasound to characterize persons at risk, including differences among race/ethnic groups. This research contained three distinct projects. The first goal was to determine if changes within ultrasonographic measures of carotid vasculature could be found across race/ethnic groups after adjustment for risk factors. The second was to determine if those same measures were related to changes in cerebral white matter known to be associated with ongoing cerebrovascular disease; we compared ultrasound to an MRI marker of subclinical vascular disease, white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV). Finally, we sought to investigate a known and well-studied ultrasound marker for atherosclerosis, carotid intima-medial thickness, with those same MRI markers of subclinical vascular disease (WMHV). All studies were conducted within an on-going multiethnic cohort that has been followed since 1990, The Northern Manhattan Study. The population is comprised of persons who self-identify as Hispanic (52%), Black (24%), or White (21%), with less than 3% identified as “race/other.” We found race/ethnic differences in carotid arterial stiffness and diameter; carotid diameter increases with age among Hispanics, but not among blacks or whites. A significant correlation was also found between diastolic diameter and subclinical vascular disease, and this relationship was also increased among Hispanics; neither black race nor white race was associated with corresponding increases in both MRI white matter hyperintensity and diastolic diameter. Finally, using a surrogate marker for atherosclerosis, carotid intima-medial thickness (cIMT), we document for the first time, positive associations between cIMT and WMHV. There are important developments still to be made in the field of vascular risk. Use of inexpensive and non-invasive ultrasound technology to approximate ongoing cerebrovascular disease could lead to better understanding of the effect of known risk factors, and could help stroke risk assessment and treatment modification.


Carotid Stiffness; Intima-Medial Thickness; Ultrasound; Stroke; Cardiovascular Disease; Race/ethnic differences