Good cardiovascular health in middle age linked to lower risk of dementia

A new study published by the BMJ found that good cardiovascular health in middle age may lower the risk of developing dementia later on in life.

A team of researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research utilized “Life Simple 7,” a cardiovascular health score by the American Heart Association designed to prevent the development of risk factors associated with dementia. The health tool is comprised of four behavioral and three biological metrics.

“The cardiovascular health score included four behavioural (smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index) and three biological (fasting glucose, blood cholesterol, blood pressure) metrics, coded on a three point scale (0, 1, 2). The cardiovascular health score was the sum of seven metrics (score range 0-14) and was categorised into poor (scores 0-6), intermediate (7-11), and optimal (12-14) cardiovascular health,” the findings say.

Although previous research has regarded the health score as potentially inconsistent, researchers set out to look into this uncertainty by studying the mutuality between the health score in middle age and the risk of dementia 25 years later.

For the study, researchers focused on the cardiovascular data of 7,899 British participants from the Whitehall II Study conducted between 1985 to 1988. At age 50, the participants were screened for cardiovascular disease and dementia. Most participants did not exhibit any signs of cognitive impairment; 347 of the participants, however, went on to develop dementia at age 75 over a follow-up span of 25 years.

The findings unveiled a link between adhering to the health score recommendations in middle age and a lower risk of dementia later on in life. Researchers also found that a higher cardiovascular health score at age 50 was associated with increased grey matter volumes and whole-brain, as observed in MRI scans 20 years later.

“Our findings suggest that the Life’s Simple 7, which comprises the cardiovascular health score, at age 50 may shape the risk of dementia in a synergistic manner,” researchers stated. “Cardiovascular risk factors are modifiable, making them strategically important prevention targets. This study supports public health policies to improve cardiovascular health as early as age 50 to promote cognitive health.”