Better Heart health Linked with Fewer Memory Problems, Study


People with poor heart health are more likely to suffer from learning and memory impairment than those with good cardiovascular health, according to a new study by Brigham Young University.

For the study, researchers observed 17,761 people, who were aged 45 years and above. At the beginning of the study, the participants were associated with normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. The researchers evaluated their mental function four years later.

Researchers used data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study. The REGARDS study population comprised of 55 percent women, 42 percent blacks, 58 percent whites and 56 percent residents of the "stroke belt" states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

They determined the patient's heart health based on risk factors including smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose. Each of the factors was rated as poor, intermediate or ideal.

Cognitive function assessment tests measured verbal learning, memory and fluency. Verbal fluency was determined by asking participants to name as many animals as possible within 60 seconds, while verbal memory was assessed by participant's recollection of a ten-item list.

The researchers found that impairment in 4.6 percent of the participants with the worst cardiovascular health, 2.7 percent of those with intermediate health profiles and 2.6 percent of those with the best cardiovascular health.

"We did not observe a dose-response pattern; people with intermediate and high levels of cardiovascular health had similar incidence of cognitive impairment. This suggests that even when high cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels ... are preferable to low cardiovascular health," the researchers said, Med Page Today  reports.

"Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function. This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health," Lead investigator Dr Evan Thacker, an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist, said in a press release.

Thacker said that higher cardiovascular health scores were more common in men, people with higher education, higher income, and among those without any cardiovascular disease.

The finding is published in the Journal of American Heart Association

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