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Could poor cardiovascular health set your patients up for dementia?

August, 2017    |

A new NIH-funded study suggests that individuals with vascular health risk factors have a higher chance of developing dementia. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking are all key players in this issue.

“With an aging population, dementia is becoming a greater health concern. This study supports the importance of controlling vascular risk factors like high blood pressure early in life in an effort to prevent dementia as we age,” ssays Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”

The study analyzed the data of 15,744 middle aged individuals who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, funded by the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). From 1987-1989, the participants underwent a battery of medical tests. Over the next 25 years, they were examined four more times. Cognitive tests of were administered during all but the first and third exams.

At the end of the study, researchers found that 1,516 participants were diagnosed with dementia. Ultimately, researchers discovered that diabetes, hypertension and prehypertension increased the chances of dementia for all patients. What’s more, they found that smoking cigarettes exclusively increased the chances of dementia for white individuals, but not for their black counterparts.

“Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence linking midlife vascular health to dementia,” says Dr. Gottesman. “These are modifiable risk factors. Our hope is that by addressing these types of factors early, people can reduce the chances that they will suffer from dementia later in life.”