Increases in heart disease risk factors may decrease brain function

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."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smoking clouds the brain after stroke

Oct 02, 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

Most seniors eligible for statin Rx under new guidelines

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Most older Americans qualify for treatment with statins under new guidelines for the treatment of blood cholesterol released late last year by the American College of Cardiology and the American ...

Asymptomatic atherosclerosis linked to cognitive impairment

23 hours ago

In a study of nearly 2,000 adults, researchers found that a buildup of plaque in the body's major arteries was associated with mild cognitive impairment. Results of the study conducted at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

arq
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.