A new study published in the online journal Neurology has found that cardiovascular disease risk factors may increase the risk of dementia in older people. Cardiovascular disease risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and smoking.

Previous research has shown that cardiovascular disease risk factors play a role in the likelihood of developing cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, this new study suggests that people who accumulate these risk factors faster over time have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia or vascular dementia compared to people whose risk factors remain stable throughout life.

The study analyzed data from 1,244 people with an average age of 55 who were considered healthy at the start of this study. Participants were required to take memory tests, health examinations, and completed lifestyle questionnaires every five years for up to 25 years.

By the end of this study, 78 people or 6% developed Alzheimer’s disease dementia, and 39 people or 3% developed dementia from vascular disease. Researchers found that cardiovascular disease risk played a significant role in developing cognitive decline.

People in this study with stable cardiovascular disease risk showed an average of 20% risk of a cognitive decline, while those with moderately increased risk went from 17% to 38% over the course of the study. Participants with an accelerated risk went from 23% to 62% increased risk by the end of the study.

Study author Bryn Farnsworth von Cederwald said, “Several risk factors were elevated in people with an accelerated risk, indicating that such acceleration may come from an accumulation of damage from a combination of risk factors over time.”

Lifestyle Factors

It was concluded that it is important to determine and address all risk factors in each person, such as reducing high blood pressure, lowering BMI, and stopping smoking. With some simple lifestyle changes, the risk for cardiovascular disease can be reduced, affecting the risk of memory decline.

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