February 23, 2011

High Cholesterol and Memory Problems

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- High cholesterol and blood pressure in middle age may not only be risk factors for heart disease, but also for developing early cognitive and memory problems, according to this study.

Participants of the study included 3,486 men and 1,341 women with an average age of 55 who underwent cognitive tests three times over ten years. The tests measured reasoning, memory, fluency, and vocabulary. Participants received a Framingham risk scores that is used to predict 10-year risk of a cardiovascular event. It is based on age, sex, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and whether they smoked or had diabetes.

The study found people who had higher cardiovascular risk were more likely to have lower cognitive function and a faster rate of overall cognitive decline compared to those with the lowest risk of heart disease. A 10-percent higher cardiovascular risk was associated with poorer cognitive test scores in all areas except reasoning for men and fluency for women. For example, a 10 percent higher cardiovascular risk was associated with a 2.8 percent lower score in the test of memory for men and a 7.1 percent lower score in the memory test for women.

Higher cardiovascular risk was also associated with a 10-year faster rate of overall cognitive decline in both men and women compared to those with lower cardiovascular risk.

"Our findings contribute to the mounting evidence for the role of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, contributing to cognitive problems, starting in middle age," study author, Sara Kaffashian, MSc, with INSERM, the French National Institute of Health & Medical Research in Paris, was quoted as saying. "The study further demonstrates how these heart disease risk factors can contribute to cognitive decline over a 10-year period."

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii from April 9- 16, 2011