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Is there a link between cardiovascular health and dementia?

In a recent study, researchers evaluated cardiovascular health at age 50 to determine the prevalence of dementia 20 years later.

Pathophysiological markers of dementia can appear as early as fifteen to twenty years before diagnosis. Previous studies have shown that a healthier cardiovascular score is linked to a lower risk of dementia. However, results from other studies have been inconsistent. In a recent study, researchers evaluated cardiovascular health at age 50 to determine the prevalence of dementia in later life.

A prospective cohort study was published in BMJ, in which researchers tested the cardiovascular health of 50-year-old participants, and then tested participants’ brain health 20 years later. This study, called the Whitehall II study, is a continuing cohort study that included participants from the British Civil Service. At the beginning of the study, participants answered a questionnaire that inquired about physical activity, diet, and whether or not they smoked. Participants also completed a medical evaluation. Participants were continuously tested for 20 years. Researchers used magnetic resonance-imaging analysis to assess brain health.

The study reported 347 dementia diagnoses out of 7,899 participants. Dementia risk was lower among participants who had greater cardiovascular health at age 50. Dementia risk was higher among participants who had poorer cardiovascular health at age 50. Improvement in heart health as participants aged was associated with a reduction in dementia risk.

The results of this study suggest that protecting heart health can reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.

Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer

References:

The determinants of cognitive decline and dementia. 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4946, assessed 8 Aug 2019.

Severine, Sabia, et al. “Association of ideal cardiovascular health at age 50 with incidence of dementia: 25 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study”. BMJ. 2019. 1-10. Online.

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