Early cardiovascular disease associated with poor brain health in midlife

Summary: People who suffer from cardiovascular disease at an early age are more likely to have cognitive and memory problems and poor brain health in middle age.

source: AT

According to new research published in Neurology.

“Cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke are associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in older people, but less is known about how having these diseases before age 60 affects cognitive function and brain health over the course of life,” said study author Xiaqing Jiang, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco.

“Our study found that cardiovascular events earlier in life are associated with poorer cognition, accelerated cognitive decline and poor brain health in midlife.”

The study looked at 3,146 people. Participants were aged 18 to 30 at the start of the study and were followed for up to 30 years. By the end of the study, they were 55 years old on average.

Of the total participants, 147, or 5%, were diagnosed with early-onset cardiovascular disease, defined as coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, carotid artery disease, or peripheral artery disease before age 60. The average age for a first cardiovascular event is 48 years.

After being followed for three decades, the participants were given five cognitive tests. The tests measure thinking and memory skills, including global cognition, processing speed, executive function, delayed verbal memory, and verbal fluency.

The researchers found that people with early cardiovascular disease performed worse than those without on five out of five tests. On a test of recalling a list of words after 10 minutes, where scores ranged from zero to 15, those with early cardiovascular disease compared to those without had a mean score of 6.4 versus a mean score of 8.5.

On a test assessing global cognition, where scores range from zero to 30, those with early CVD had an average score of 21.4, compared with others without CVD, who had an average score of 23.9. A score of 26 or higher is considered typical, while people with mild cognitive impairment have an average score of 22.

The researchers found that people with early cardiovascular disease performed worse than those without on five out of five tests. Image is in the public domain

Of the total number of participants, 656 people had brain scans to look at white matter hyperintensity and white matter integrity. White matter hyperintensity usually indicates vascular damage to the white matter of the brain.

After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers found that early cardiovascular disease was associated with more white matter hyperintensities in the brain, as well as higher mean white matter diffusivity, indicating a reduction of brain tissue integrity.

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For participants who had two sets of cognitive tests 25 and 30 years after the study began, the researchers found that early cardiovascular disease was associated with three times the likelihood of accelerated cognitive decline over five years, with 13% of people with early cardiovascular disease experienced accelerated cognitive decline compared with 5% of people who did not have the disease.

“Our research suggests that a person’s 20s and 30s are a crucial time to begin protecting brain health through cardiovascular disease prevention and intervention,” Jiang said. “Preventing these diseases can delay the onset of cognitive decline and promote a healthier brain throughout life.”

A limitation of the study is that cognitive tests were not given at the beginning of the study.

For this news on cognitive function research, CVD and aging

Author: Press office
source: AT
Contact: The press office – INCL
Image: Image is in the public domain

Original research: Findings will be in Neurology

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