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High Cholesterol And Blood Pressure May Affect Memory In Middle Age

Most middle agers and seniors attempt to keep their cholesterol and blood pressure levels under control in an attempt to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, but a new study shows more may be at stake. In a long term study of British civil servants, a team of researchers in France assessed data on about 3,500 British men and 1,300 British women with an average age of 55. Over the course of ten years, participants were measured three times for reasoning skills, memory, fluency and vocabulary.

Reasoning Test: Included 65 verbal and math questions that increased in difficulty.
Memory Test: Asked participants to recall a list of 20 words.
Fluency/Vocabulary Test: Asked people to do things such as name as many words that start with the letter “s” as they can in one minute or name as many animals as they can in the same period.

Participants were also given what is called a Framingham risk score, which takes into account a person’s age, gender, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking history and diabetes status to predict the chances of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem sometime within the next 10 years. According to the test results, it was observed that those with poor cardiovascular health were more likely to do poorly on memory and mental ability tests. Study co-author, Sara Kaffasian, a doctoral student at Paris’ French National Institute of Health and Medical Research said, “We found that cardiovascular risk in middle age is related to lower overall cognitive function. We also observed a relationship between poor cardiovascular scores and overall cognitive decline over 10 years.” The study results will to be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Honolulu. Experts caution that research presented at meetings is not subject to the same rigorous scrutiny given to research published in medical journals. Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, said an increasing body of research is showing the importance of cardiovascular health in maintaining brain function over a person’s life span.

“The link between cardiovascular health and brain health is becoming increasingly important and recognized,” said Sacco, a professor of neurology, epidemiology and human genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and inactivity can contribute to a narrowing of the large blood vessels throughout the body, but also the small blood vessels of the brain, Sacco explained. Those changes can reduce blood flow, which can “starve the brain of oxygen and lead to changes in thinking, cognition and our mental abilities,” he said. Though the people in the study did not have Alzheimer’s, other research suggests that hypertension, diabetes and poor cardiovascular health are a risk factor for both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, he added. But the good news, he said, is that middle aged adults can take preventative steps to improve cardiovascular health by eating a proper diet, exercising, controlling diabetes if they have it and, if applicable, taking the correct medications for hypertension, Sacco said. “There is a hopeful note, which is that by controlling your vascular risk factors, you may be able to reduce or forestall cognitive decline,” he said.

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About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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