Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease Tied To Mental Decline

November 09, 1998

American Heart Association meeting report:

DALLAS, Nov. 9 -- How many risk factors you have for heart disease and stroke may determine how well you think and remember, according a new study that links the combined effects of diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and obesity to mental ability. The information was presented today at the American Heart Association's 71st Scientific Sessions.

"The more risk factors the more mental decline," says lead author of the study Merrill F. Elias, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Maine in Orono and adjunct research professor of medicine and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine.

"We want people to function at the highest possible level and for the longest possible time," says Elias. "People are a national resource. Individuals are going to have a reduced quality of life if they cannot learn and remember." Previous studies have shown that high blood pressure and diabetes may impair thinking abilities, says Elias. But the new research by Elias and his colleagues identified two other risk factors, obesity and smoking, that increased a person's chance of mental decline.

Elias's group tested 1,799 volunteers in the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked the cardiovascular health of a group of residents in a community near Boston for about 50 years. Between 1976 and 1978, the volunteers, age 55 to 85 years, took a series of eight neuropsychological tests designed to assess their thinking and memory abilities. Those scoring in the lowest 25 percent were considered to be "poor performers."

Researchers also assigned to each volunteer a number (0-4) representing how many risk factors for heart disease the individual had at the time of testing. "The study showed that the more risk factors for heart disease a person has, the greater the risk of developing memory and learning impairments," says Elias. After analyzing the total scores achieved on all eight tests, researchers found that people with one of four risk factors at the time of testing were, on average, 23 percent more likely to be poor performers than those with no risk factors. With each additional risk factor, the volunteers' risk of decreased mental function increased another 23 percent.

The researchers then narrowed their analysis to only the scores on three tests that assessed learning and memory, excluding those that measured attention, concentration or word fluency.

"Again, more risk factors for heart disease indicated a higher chance of mental decline. People with one risk factor averaged a 32 percent increased risk of mental decline over those with no risk factors and again this chance increased by about 32 percent with each additional risk factor.

"This tells us that treating these risk factors provides not only a payoff in terms of decreased risk of stroke and heart disease, but there may be an additional benefit by helping to prevent or slow down the mental decline that comes with aging," he says.

The findings held up when the team controlled statistically for age, education, occupation, gender, total cholesterol levels, alcohol use, and several forms of heart disease, including a previous heart attack.

The findings demonstrate that by counting the number of heart disease risk factors a person has, physicians could assess a person's risk for cognitive decline. Counseling from their doctor about the risk of cognitive decline might motivate people to control their blood pressure and diabetes, stop smoking, and lose weight, according to Elias.

Co-authors include: Penelope K. Elias, Ph.D.; Ralph B. D'Agostino, Ph.D.; Halit Silbershatz, Ph.D.; and Philip A. Wolf, M.D.

American Heart Association

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.