Brain function in adults as young as 35 may decline as their risk of heart disease increases, according to new research.
“Young adults may think the consequences of smoking or being overweight are years down the road, but they aren’t,” said Hanneke Joosten, M.D., lead author and nephrology fellow at the University Medical Center in Groningen, The Netherlands.
“Most people know the negative effects of heart risk factors such as heart attack, stroke and renal impairment, but they do not realize it affects cognitive health. What’s bad for the heart is also bad for the brain.”
The Dutch study included 3,778 people between the ages of 35 and 82 who underwent cognitive function tests that measured the ability to plan and reason and to initiate and switch tasks. A separate test gauged memory function. Their risk for a cardiovascular event in the next 10 years was determined using the Framingham Risk Score.
Researchers found that people with the most heart disease risks performed 50 percent worse on cognitive tests compared to people with the lowest risk profile.
They also found that the Framingham Risk Score, age, diabetes, bad cholesterol and smoking were linked to poor cognitive scores.
According to the researchers, participants who smoked between one and 15 cigarettes daily had a decrease in cognitive score of 2.41 points, while those smoking more than 16 cigarettes daily had a decrease of 3.43 points.
Memory scores also had a similar association.
Two risk factors — smoking and diabetes — were strong determinants of cognitive function, according to the study.
“There clearly is a dose response among smokers, with heavy smokers having a lower cognitive function than light or non-smokers,” Joosten said.
“It is likely that smoking cessation has a beneficial effect on cognitive function. Smoking cessation programs might not only prevent cancer, stroke and cardiovascular events, but also cognitive damage.”
The research was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Source: American Heart Association