Targeting cerebral small vessel disease to promote healthy aging: Preserving physical and cognitive functions in the elderly

Chih Ping Chung, Masafumi Ihara, Hilal Saima, Liang Kung Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), which is highly age-related, is the most common neuroimaging finding in community-dwelling elderly individuals. In addition to increasing the risk of dementia and stroke, SVD is associated with cognitive and physical (particularly gait speed) functional impairments in the elderly. Here, we provide evidence suggesting covert SVD, e.g. without clinically evident stroke or dementia, as a critical target to preserve the functional ability that enables well-being in older age. First, we discuss the relationship between covert SVD and geriatric syndrome. SVD lesions found in non-demented, stroke-free elderly are actually not “silent” but are associated with accelerated age-related functional decline. We also reviewed the brain structural and functional abnormalities associated with covert SVD and the possible mechanisms underlying their contributions to SVD-related cognitive and physical functional impairments. Finally, we reveal current data, though limited, on the management of elderly patients with covert SVD to prevent SVD lesion progression and functional decline. Although it is important in aging health, covert SVD is still under-recognized or misjudged by physicians in both neurological and geriatric professions. Improving the acknowledgment, detection, interpretation, and understanding of SVD would be a multidisciplinary priority to maintain cognitive and physical functions in the elderly. The dilemmas and future directions of clinical practice and research for the elderly with covert SVD are also included in the present review.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104982
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Aging
  • Cerebral small vessel disease
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Frailty
  • Gait slowness


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