August 10, 2011

USA: Heart Risks May Hasten Mental Decline

NEW YORK, NY / The New York Times / Research / Health / August 9, 2011

By Nicholas Bakalar

Cardiovascular risk factors in middle age are associated with brain deterioration and a decline in mental function later in life, a new report has found.

In a study published online last week in Neurology, scientists at the University of California, Davis, examined 1,352 men and women, ages 45 to 63, and recorded the group’s rates of hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and other risks.

The researchers also performed brain scans of the participants and administered several widely used tests of mental ability. No subject had symptoms of dementia at the start of the study.

In follow-up examinations 7 to 13 years later, the researchers found that high blood pressure at the start of the study was associated with an increased appearance of white areas on the scan, a sign of brain deterioration.

Midlife diabetes was associated with a greater annual increase in the size of the brain’s temporal horn, a marker of Alzheimer’s disease, in later years. And those with an increased waist-to-hip ratio had a significant decrease in total brain volume over time.
Obese people and those with hypertension eventually performed more poorly on tests of memory and mental skills, even after controlling for baseline cognitive performance, the researchers found.

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