Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Million Hearts Colorado: Poor Cardiovascular Health Linked to Memory, Learning Deficits

The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Cardiovascular health plays a critical role in brain health, with several cardiovascular risk factors also playing a role in higher risk for cognitive decline.

After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, researchers identified cognitive impairment in:

  -  4.6 percent of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores;
  -  2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles; and
  -  2.6 percent of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said the lead investigator. “This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

The differences were seen regardless of race, gender, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, or geographic region, although higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among people without any cardiovascular disease.

Cognitive function assessments involved tests to measure verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal learning was determined using a three-trial, ten-item word list, while verbal memory was assessed by free recall of the ten-item list after a brief delay filled with non-cognitive questions. Verbal fluency was determined by asking each participant to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds.

Although mechanisms that might explain the findings remain unclear, Thacker said that undetected subclinical strokes could not be ruled out.
Colorado participates in the Million Hearts Initiative, an effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. You can participate too. Be one in a million - make your commitment and pledge today.

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