Top Header Menu

High Blood Pressure And Other Vascular Diseases In Middle Age Can Damage Cognition Later In Life

Charles DeCarli, M.D.

Researcher Charles DeCarli, M.D.

High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking in middle age can cause vascular damage, decrease brain volume, and cause cognitive decline later in life, a study led by researchers at UC Davis has found. The study is published in the Aug. 2 issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“This study provides evidence that identifying these risk factors early in middle age could be useful in screening people at risk of dementia and in encouraging them to make changes in their lifestyles before it’s too late,” said Charles DeCarli, a professor of neurology in the UC Davis School of Medicine and director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The study examined the relationships between midlife vascular risk factors and markers for brain aging based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The indicators are associated with cognitive decline and dementia later in life.

The current study was conducted with data from participants in the Framingham Offspring Cohort Study, a multi-site, prospective cohort study comprised of three generations of the offspring and spouses of participants in the Framingham Heart Study. Some 1,352 of the study participants were included in the current research. The study subjects had an average age of 54.

Study participants have been followed since 1978 to identify vascular disease risk factors, and were repeatedly assessed for those risk factors, which included an elevated body mass index, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and smoking.

Beginning in 1999, the researchers obtained measures of vascular disease such as the volume of white matter hyperintensities, or areas on MRI that appear bright white that are associated with increased vascular damage. Other measurements included changes in total brain volume and changes in cognitive tests of verbal and spatial memory and decision-making capabilities.

The study found that people with high blood pressure developed white matter hyperintensities at a faster rate than those with normal blood pressure and had a more rapid decline in scores on tests of executive function, or planning and decision making. Participants who were obese were more likely to be in the top 25 percent of people with a greater rate of decline in scores on tests of executive functioning abilities later in life.

The study also found that participants with diabetes in mid-life had lost brain volume in the hippocampus brain region at a faster rate than those without diabetes when they were older. Study subjects who smoked lost overall brain volume faster than non-smokers and also were more likely to have a rapid increase in white matter hyperintensities.

“These factors appeared to cause the brain to lose volume, to develop lesions secondary to presumed vascular injury, and also appeared to affect the brain’s ability to plan and make decisions as quickly as it had 10 years earlier,” said DeCarli, who is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

Other study authors include Stephanie Debette, Sudha Seshadri, Alexa Besier, Jayandra Jung Himali, Carole Palumbo and Philip A. Wolf, all of Boston University.

Material adapted from UC Davis Health System.

, , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

Proudly hosted by Lightning Base