Heart health matters to your brain

June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013 – People suffering from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are at an increased risk of cognitive decline, according to a new study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Lead author Christina E. Hugenschmidt, Ph.D., an instructor of and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist, said the results from the Diabetes Heart Study-Mind (DHS-Mind) suggest that CVD is playing a role in cognition problems before it is clinically apparent in patients. The research appears online ahead of print in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications.

"There has been a lot of research looking at the links between and increased risk for , but this is the first study to look specifically at subclinical CVD and the role it plays," Hugenschmidt said. "Our research shows that CVD risk caused by diabetes even before it's at a clinically treatable level might be bad for your brain.

"The results imply that additional CVD factors, especially calcified plaque and vascular status, and not diabetes status alone, are major contributors to type 2 diabetes related ."

Hugenschmidt said DHS-Mind is a follow-up study to the Diabetes Heart Study (DHS), which examined relationships between cognitive function, vascular calcified and other major diabetes risk factors associated with cognition. The DHS investigated CVD in with a high incidence and prevalence of type 2 diabetes, where extensive measurements of CVD risk factors were obtained during exams that occurred from 1998 to 2006.

The DHS-Mind study added cognitive testing to existing measures with the express purpose of exploring the relationships between measures of and cognition in a population heavily affected by diabetes, a novel approach given that previous studies have focused on diabetes and cognition in the context of clinically evident CVD, Hugenschmidt said. The researchers followed up with as many of the original 1,443 DHS study participants as possible who had cardiovascular measures. Of that 516 total, 422 were affected with type 2 diabetes and 94 were unaffected.

Hugenschmidt said the researchers ran a battery of cognitive testing that looked at different kinds of thinking like memory and processing speed, as well as executive function, which is a set of mental skills coordinated in the brain's frontal lobe that includes stop and think processes like managing time and attention, planning and organizing. She said that being able to look at data where the comparison group was siblings, some of whom had a high level of CVD themselves, made the results more clinically relevant because the participants shared the same environmental and genetic background.

"We still saw a difference between these two groups. Even compared to their own siblings who were not disease free, those with diabetes and subclinical cardiovascular disease had a higher risk of cognitive dysfunction," Hugenschmidt said.

CVD explains a lot of the cognitive problems that people with diabetes experience, Hugenschmidt said. "One possibility is that your brain requires a really steady blood flow and it's possible that the cardiovascular disease that accompanies diabetes might be the main driver behind the cognitive deficits that we see."

Hugenschmidt said the takeaway for clinicians is to take CVD risk factors into consideration when they're treating patients with type 2 patients because even at borderline clinical levels, it might have long-term implications for peoples' mental, cognitive health.

Explore further: Diabetes associated with higher risk of cardiovascular problems in men

More information: The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health through NINDS R01NS058700-02S109 and NIDDK 1F32DK083214-01.

Related Stories

Poor health-related function, diabetes combo ups death risk

March 30, 2012

(HealthDay) -- The combination of type 2 diabetes and impaired health-related functioning (HRF) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, according to a study published online March 23 ...

Genetic predisposition to diabetes ups risk of CVD

October 23, 2012

(HealthDay)—For patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D), having a genetic predisposition towards the disease is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a study published online Oct. 15 ...

Cardiac autonomic dysfunction is linked to arterial stiffness

April 3, 2013

(HealthDay)—Cardiac autonomic dysfunction as measured by lower heart rate variability (HRV) is associated with increases in both central and vascular vascular stiffness among youths with type 1 diabetes regardless of underlying ...

Survived cancer? Now look out for cardiovascular risks

April 16, 2013

Many people survive their cancers, but end up dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD). New research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center finds that CVD risk factors may be overlooked during survivorship care.

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...


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.