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Cardiovascular issues in early adulthood may trigger cognitive issues later: study

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San Francisco — Individuals in their 20s and 30s with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and high levels of blood glucose may face a greater risk of developing cognitive and memory decline later in life, according to a study recently published by the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers analyzed data from four studies that involved 15,000 people ages 18 to 95 who were followed for 10 to 30 years. For each participant, body mass index, blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol were measured at least three times, while thinking and memory skills were evaluated every one to two years. The researchers estimated previous levels of cardiovascular risk factors for participants who entered the study at an older age.

Findings show that cardiovascular issues in early adulthood, middle age and late life were associated with greater cognitive decline. However, those with such concerns in their 20s and 30s – including a BMI higher than 30 and elevated systolic blood pressure – had double the average rate of decline over 10 years.


A similar association for those with increased cholesterol levels wasn’t found.

“These results are striking and suggest that early adulthood may be a critical time for the relationship between these health issues and late-life cognitive skills,” lead study author Kristine Yaffe, professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a press release. “It’s possible that treating or modifying these health issues in early adulthood could prevent or reduce problems with thinking skills later in life.”

The study was published online March 17 in the AAN journal Neurology.

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