Coronary Heart Disease May Up Dementia Risk In Later Life

Middle aged people who have a history of coronary heart disease perform worse on cognitive tests than healthy individuals according to a new study published on July 22 in the European Heart Journal (EHJ). The research backs up a number of recent studies that have suggests a link between dementia and cardiovascular disease.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Paul Brousse hospital in France and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in London, focused on 10,308 middle-aged participants from the Whitehall II study. The participants, initially aged between 35 and 55, were followed from 1985-1988 up to the conclusion of the study in 2002-2004.

The participants completed six tests of cognitive ability. The tests were on reasoning, phonemic and semantic fluency, memory, vocabulary and a mini-mental-state-examination (MMSE). The MMSE is a 30 point test that is often used to screen for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The researchers standardized the results of the tests to T-scores (mean score standardized to 50 with standard deviation of 10).

The researchers found that men with a history of heart disease performed significantly worse in reasoning, vocabulary, and MMSE. Furthermore, T-scores for men became progressively worse the longer they had been suffering from heart disease.

Amongst women, a history of heart disease was associated with lower performance scores in the phonemic and sementic fluency tests.

The authors of the study believe that heart problems in mid-life may be a precursor for dementia in later life, underlining the importance of maintaining a healthy heart. According to lead researcher Dr Archana Singh-Manoux: “Our results should give an added incentive to reduce the risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD), as by so doing we could also be reducing the chances of cognitive decline.”