Those with the highest cardiovascular risk scores suffered a more rapid cognitive decline compared to those with the lower risk scores, in a study that followed 1588 adults over 21 years. This effect was particularly true for those who didn’t carry a strong genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease.
As compared to the lowest tertile those with the highest cardiovascular risk had faster declines in global cognition, episodic memory, working memory, and perceptual speed over a 5.8 month median follow up; stratified analysis showed these associations were present mainly in those who didn’t carry the APOE e4 allele. With MRI analysis the increased cardiovascular risk was linked to a smaller hippocampus, gray matter, total brain volumes, and a greater volume of white matter hyperintensities.
Results stratified by APOE e4 status suggest that individuals without a strong genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease may be more susceptible to vascular risk factors.
Dementia is set to become an ever-increasing health burden, and the prospects of effective treatments in the near future look bleak. Monitoring and management of cardiovascular risk factors in mid-life could therefore be an important strategy for maintaining cognitive health.