Assessing a person's future risk of heart disease and stroke
may be a better predictor of mental decline than a dementia risk test, new
The study included about 7 800 men and women with an average
age of 55. Each participant's risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia was
calculated at the start of the study.
The heart disease assessment included the risk factors of
age, blood pressure, high blood pressure treatment, smoking, diabetes and
levels of total cholesterol and "good" HDL cholesterol.
The stroke assessment included similar risk factors plus
history of heart disease and irregular heart beat.
The dementia risk score included age, education, blood
pressure, body-mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight),
total cholesterol, exercise levels and whether a person had a specific type of
the gene associated with dementia.
Ten years after having these risk assessments, the
participants underwent tests of their thinking and memory (cognitive)
abilities. All three risk tests were able to predict cognitive decline over 10
years, but heart disease risk scores had a stronger link with cognitive decline
than dementia risk scores.
Both heart and stroke risk were associated with decline in
all cognitive tests except memory. Dementia risk was not linked with declines
in memory or verbal abilities, according to the study.
"Although the dementia and cardiovascular risk scores
all predict cognitive decline starting in late middle age, cardiovascular risk
scores may have an advantage over the dementia risk score for use in prevention
and for targeting changeable risk factors since they are already used by many
physicians," Sara Kaffashian, of the French National Institute of Health
and Medical Research, said in a journal news release.
"The findings also emphasize the importance of risk
factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol and high blood
pressure in not only increasing risk of heart disease and stroke but also
having a negative impact on cognitive abilities," Kaffashian said.
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke has more about dementia.