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Risk factors upon the heart: in time, however, the damage spills over the brain

Cardiovascular disease risk factors, like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and tobacco smoking are deemed to play key roles in the likelihood of developing senile vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which bot lead to cognitive decline. A new study suggests that people who fastly accumulate these risk factors 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 looked at 1,244 people with an average age of 55 who were considered healthy in terms of cardiovascular health and memory skills at the start of the study. Cardiovascular disease risk was determined by using the Framingham Risk Score which looks at factors like age, sex, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, diabete and smoking. Participants were given memory tests, health examinations and completed lifestyle questionnaires every five years for up to 25 years. Of all participants, 78 people (6%), developed dementia during the study and 39 people (3%), developed dementia from vascular disease.

Participants started the study with an average 10-year risk between 17% and 23%. Researchers determined who had an accelerated cardiovascular disease risk by comparing participants to the average progression of cardiovascular disease risk. And they found that cardiovascular disease risk remained stable in 22% of participants, increased moderately over time in 60%, and rose at an accelerated pace in 18% of people with stable cardiovascular disease risk had an average 20% risk of a cardiovascular event over 10 years throughout the study, while those with a moderate increased risk went from 17% to 38% over the course of the study and those with an accelerated risk went from a 23% to 62% increased risk by the end of the study. Researchers determined that when compared to people with a stable cardiovascular disease risk, people with an accelerated cardiovascular disease risk had a 3-6 times greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s dementia and a 3-4 times greater risk of developing vascular dementia. They also had up to a 1.4 times greater risk of memory decline in middle age.

Dr Bryn Farnsworth von Cederwald, PhD, Umeå University, commented the implications of the research: “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. Our study suggests that having an accelerated risk of cardiovascular disease, quickly accumulating more risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity, is predictive of dementia risk and associated with the emergence of memory decline. In addition we have the chance to address all risk factors in each person, such as reducing high blood pressure, stopping smoking and lowering BMI, rather than just address individual risk factors in an effort to prevent or slow dementia. As a result, earlier interventions with people who have accelerated cardiovascular risks could be an effective way to help prevent further memory decline in the future”. This knowledge joins the data of another very recently published study from the Boston University School of Medicine.

The research again pointed at cardiovascular risk factors and indicate that ignoring cholesterol and glucose levels at the age of 35, may impact the chances of getting dementia later in life after 55-60. The researchers obtained data from participants of the Framingham Heart Study who were examined in approximately four-year intervals throughout most of their adult lives. What was found is that lower HDL cholesterol is predictive of dementia in early (35-50 years) and middle (51-60 years) adulthood and that high glucose in the blood during mid-adulthood is also predictive of dementia. These findings show for the first time that cardiovascular risk factors, including HDL which has not been consistently reported as a strong risk factor for AD, contribute to future risk of AD starting as early as age 35. And strenghten once more the concept of a disciplined lifestyle to be uphold constantly throughout the lifecourse. Biology was not mistaken earlier: the damage starts while young, the damage you will see as elder.

  • edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.

Scientific references

von Cederwald BF et al. Neurology 2022 Apr 20 online.

Régy M et al. Neuroimage. 2022 Apr 15; 250:118966.

Wang J, Zhao C et al. Ann Transl Med. 2022; 10(5):246. 

Tang X et al. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021; 130:301-13.

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Dott. Gianfrancesco Cormaci

Medico Chirurgo, Specialista; PhD. a CoFood s.r.l.
- Laurea in Medicina e Chirurgia nel 1998 (MD Degree in 1998) - Specialista in Biochimica Clinica nel 2002 (Clinical Biochemistry residency in 2002) - Dottorato in Neurobiologia nel 2006 (Neurobiology PhD in 2006) - Ha soggiornato negli Stati Uniti, Baltimora (MD) come ricercatore alle dipendenze del National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) e poi alla Johns Hopkins University, dal 2004 al 2008. - Dal 2009 si occupa di Medicina personalizzata. - Guardia medica presso strutture private dal 2010 - Detentore di due brevetti sulla preparazione di prodotti gluten-free a partire da regolare farina di frumento enzimaticamente neutralizzata (owner of patents concerning the production of bakery gluten-free products, starting from regular wheat flour). - Responsabile del reparto Ricerca e Sviluppo per la società CoFood s.r.l. (Leader of the R&D for the partnership CoFood s.r.l.) - Autore di articoli su informazione medica e salute sul sito www.medicomunicare.it (Medical/health information on website) - Autore di corsi ECM FAD pubblicizzati sul sito www.salutesicilia.it
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