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August 2019

Improve CVD risks to reduce dementia risk in later life

Even small improvements in cardiovascular risk factors are likely to be beneficial for cognitive health in later life, according to a new study in The BMJ.

Good cardiovascular health at age 50 is associated with a lower risk of dementia later in life, researchers say.

Dementia is a progressive disease that can start to develop 15-20 years before any symptoms appear, so identifying factors that might prevent its onset is important.

The American Heart Association’s ‘Life Simple 7’ cardiovascular health score, initially designed for cardiovascular disease, has been put forward as a potential tool for preventing dementia.

The score is the sum of four behavioural (smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index) and three biological (fasting glucose, blood cholesterol, blood pressure) metrics.

The researchers found that adherence to the Life Simple 7 cardiovascular health recommendations in midlife was associated with a lower risk of dementia later in life.

Compared with an incidence rate of dementia of 3.2 per 1000 person years among the group with a poor cardiovascular score, those with an intermediate score had an incidence of 1.8 per 1000 person years, while those with an optimal score had an incidence of 1.3 per 1000 person years.

Higher cardiovascular health score at age 50 was also associated with higher whole brain and grey matter volumes in MRI scans 20 years later, but even small improvements in cardiovascular risk factors at age 50 may reduce dementia risk in old age, say the researchers.

Sabia S, et al. BMJ 2019;366:l4414

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