Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory, learning deficits

New York: The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater in people with poor cardiovascular health, a new research has found.

Better cardiovascular health is more common in men and among people with higher education and income.

The incidence of mental impairment was found more common in those with a lower income, who lived in the "stroke belt" or had cardiovascular disease.

"Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function," said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, assistant professor at Brigham Young University, Utah.

Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.

Researchers found that people with the lowest cardiovascular health scores were more likely to have impairment in learning, memory and verbal fluency tests than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles.

The study involved 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated four years later.

After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in 4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores; 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and 2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

"This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health," Thacker noted.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


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