High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking are all
risk factors of cardiovascular disease that are thought to play a role in
the onset of dementia, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer‘s disease.

According to a new study, those who develop these risk
factors at a faster rate over time have a higher probability of acquiring
Alzheimer’s disease dementia or vascular dementia than those whose risk
factors hold constant throughout their lives. The study was published in ‘Neurology’, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, in the
April online issue.

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The study looked at 1,244 participants with an average age
of 55 who were considered healthy at the beginning of this study in terms of
cardiovascular health and memory skills. Memory tests, health exams, and
lifestyle surveys were done with participants every five years for up
to 25 years.

During the study, 78 test subjects (6 percent of all
participants) got Alzheimer’s disease dementia, while 39 test subjects (3 percent of all participants) developed vascular disease dementia.

The Framingham Risk Score, which predicts the 10-year risk
of a cardiovascular event, was used to estimate cardiovascular disease risk. It
takes into account a person’s age, gender, BMI, blood pressure, and whether or
not they smoke or have diabetes. Participants had an average 10-year risk of
between 17 percent and 23 percent when they began the trial.

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Through comparison of participants to the average
progression of cardiovascular disease risk, researchers were able to determine
who had an accelerated cardiovascular disease risk.

Researchers discovered that the risk of cardiovascular
disease remained unchanged in 22 percent of participants, increased moderately in 60 percent,
and increased at an accelerated rate in 18 percent of
the respondents.

Those with a stable cardiovascular disease risk had an
average 20 percent risk of a cardiovascular event over 10 years whereas,
for those with a moderately increased risk, it grew from 17 percent to 38 percent and those with an accelerated risk jumped from 23 percent to 62 percent by the completion of
the study.

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Researchers discovered that people with an accelerated
cardiovascular disease risk had a 3-6 times greater probability of
developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia and a 3-4
times greater probability of developing vascular dementia when
compared to people with a stable cardiovascular disease risk. They were also at
a higher risk of cognitive decline in middle age, with a risk of up to 1.4

However, one drawback of the study was its inability to identify
whether the very onset of dementia is caused by an increased risk of
cardiovascular disease. Other causes, according to Farnsworth von Cederwald,
cannot be ruled out, and additional research is needed.