Researchers Find that Improving Cardiac Health Reduces Risk of Dementia

A study of British adults published by The BMJ today disclosed that improved cardiovascular health at the age of 50 and above assists brain health, by lowering the risk of dementia and other psychological disorders.

Dementia is a silent killer, it may take 15-20 years for the disease to appear with visible symptoms, which include memory loss, difficulty in speaking and writing coupled with failing decision-making capabilities.

The research, led by the American Heart Association, fundamentally focused on the “Life Simple 7” cardiovascular health score. In addition to cardiac health, the score is also believed to conjure up medical care for dementia.

The primeval prevention stated for good cardiovascular health had the main objective of lowering risk factors thereby reducing the risk of disease. The findings dig into a set of potentially influential factors, which include four behavioral metrics and three biological metrics. The prior include smoking, diet, physical activity, and body mass index; however, the latter includes fasting glucose levels, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure.

The cardiovascular health score is categorized into poor (scores 0-6), intermediate (7-11), and optimal (12-14) cardiovascular score.

In an international research project led by Séverine Sabia from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and University College London, the affiliation between the Life Simple 7 cardiovascular health score at age 50 and risk of dementia over the next 25 years, was examined to reduce the fickleness of the evidence.

In the Whitehall II Study, the trial was conducted on almost 8000 British men and women free of cardiovascular disease and dementia at age, observing the effect of various factors on cardiovascular benefits. The factors under study included social, behavioral, and biological ones. Until 2017 the researchers superintended dementia cases by gathering information from the hospital, mental health services, and death registers.

The findings obtained after re-examination over 25 years, reported 347 cases of dementia at an average age of 75 years out of all the participants.

The study highlighted that observing Life Simple 7 cardiovascular health recommendations at the age of 50 and above lowers the risk of dementia in future life.

The researchers concluded the rate of risk of dementia in association with their cardiovascular health scores. It was found that participants with a poor score for cardiovascular health had a risk of dementia of 3.2 per 1000 person-years, however those with an intermediate score of 7-11 had an incidence of 1.8 per 1000 person-years, and patients with an optimal score had an incidence of 1.3 per 1000 person-years.

However, a higher cardiovascular health score at age 50 was also associated with higher whole brain and grey matter volumes in MRI scans 20 years later. And reductions in dementia risk were also evident across the continuum of the cardiovascular score, suggesting that even small improvements in cardiovascular risk factors at age 50 may reduce dementia risk in old age, say the researchers.

They concluded, “Our findings suggest that the Life’s Simple 7, which comprises the cardiovascular health score, at age 50 may shape the risk of dementia in a synergistic manner. Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets. This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health.”

Researchers in a leading article emphasized the need for focusing on vascular health in midlife. “However, other evidence makes clear that vascular health at 50 is determined by factors earlier in the life course, including inequality and social and economic determinants,” they say.

The research team further added, “Reducing the risk of dementia is a leading concern in aging societies. We know that risk can change across generations, and in the UK the prevalence of dementia has decreased by nearly 25% when standardized for age,”

Conclusively, the findings obtained from this study intensify the need for action to shift population risk profiles for cognitive decline and dementia across their lifetime.

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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