Increases in heart disease risk factors may decrease brain function

May 2, 2013

Brain function in adults as young as 35 may decline as their heart disease risk factors increase, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

"Young adults may think the consequences of smoking or being overweight are years down the road, but they aren't," said Hanneke Joosten, M.D., lead author and nephrology fellow at the University Medical Center in Groningen, The Netherlands.

"Most people know the negative effects of heart risk factors such as heart attack, stroke and renal impairment, but they do not realize it affects . What's bad for the heart is also bad for the brain."

The Dutch study included 3,778 participants 35- to 82-years-old who underwent cognitive function tests that measure the ability to plan and reason and to initiate and switch tasks. A separate test gauged memory function. The Framingham Risk Score determined their risk for cardiovascular events in the next 10 years.

Researchers found:

  • Participants with the most heart disease risks performed 50 percent worse on cognitive tests as compared to participants with the lowest risk profile.
  • The overall Framingham Risk Score, age, diabetes, and smoking were negatively linked to poor cognitive scores.
  • Compared to non-smoking participants, those who smoked one to 15 cigarettes daily had a decrease in cognitive score of 2.41 points and those smoking more than 16 cigarettes daily had a decrease of 3.43 points. The memory scores had a similar association.
  • Two risk factors—smoking and diabetes—were strong determinants of cognitive function.

"There clearly is a dose response among smokers, with having a lower cognitive function than light or non-smokers," Joosten said. "It is likely that smoking cessation has a beneficial effect on cognitive function."

Health professionals need to be aware of cognitive function in patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. , especially those that are modifiable like smoking and obesity, need ongoing attention from the medical profession, government and food industry, she said. "Smoking cessation programs might not only prevent cancer, stroke and cardiovascular events, but also cognitive damage."

Explore further: Smoking clouds the brain after stroke

Related Stories

Smoking clouds the brain after stroke

October 2, 2012

A study of stroke patients from Southern Ontario found those who smoke have more difficulty with problem-solving and decision-making than non-smokers.

Recommended for you

No new heart muscle cells in mice after the newborn period

November 5, 2015

A new study from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet shows that new heart muscle cells in mice are mainly formed directly after birth. After the neonatal period the number of heart muscle cells does not change, and A new study ...

Nanotechnology could spur new heart treatment

October 29, 2015

A new nanoparticle developed by University of Michigan researchers could be the key to a targeted therapy for cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that causes the heart to beat erratically and can lead to heart attack and stroke.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 06, 2013
Glad that somebody is working on links between heart-brain-lifestyle.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.