Poor Heart Health Tied to Higher Dementia Risk

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Heart health may play a large role in whether one develops Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A new study found that people with decreased heart function were two to three times more likely to have significant memory loss.

Angela Jefferson, director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues examined data from the Framingham Heart study, an ongoing study since 1948 that has sought to identify risk factors for heart disease.

Their analysis measured cardiac index, a measure of heart function, with the development of dementia in 1,000 study participants who were followed for 11 years. Over that period, 32 participants developed dementia.

Participants with a low cardiac index — meaning they had less blood leaving the heart — had twice the relative risk of developing dementia compares with those with a normal cardiac index, the researchers reported in the journal Circulation.  

While researchers though the increased dementia risk might be tied to heart disease, they were surprised to discover that when people with heart disease and other cardiac conditions were exclude, the risk of dementia increased. In fact, individuals with no heart conditions but a low cardiac index had a three times higher relative risk of developing dementia.

The findings may indicate that the lower amount of blood leaving the heart, over time, may starve the brain of oxygen and other nutrients, leading to neurocognitive problems.

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Poor Heart Health Tied to Higher Dementia Risk

A new study led by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., suggests that having a healthy heart may protect against Alzheimer's disease. In the journal Circulation, the researchers report how they found people with decreased heart function were two to three times more likely to develop significant memory loss over a decade of study.

For their study, Angela Jefferson, director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer's Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study — an ongoing study that began in 1948 with the main aim of identifying risk factors for heart disease.

The analysis compared a measure of heart function - called the cardiac index - with the development of dementia in 1,000 participants from Framingham's Offspring Cohort who were followed for up to 11 years.


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