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Study reveals link between cardiovascular risk and cognitive decline

Elderly people with the metabolic syndrome -- a constellation of cardiovascular risk factors including excessive fat around the abdomen, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose levels -- are at greater risk for cognitive impairment and decline than those without the syndrome, according to a study led by a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).

Elders with both the metabolic syndrome and high levels of inflammation in the blood are particularly at risk, according to the research.

The findings, based on a five-year study of more than 2,600 elders, are the first to show a link between the metabolic syndrome and a decline in mental powers among the elderly.

The metabolic syndrome is on the rise in the United States, affecting an estimated one in four adults and 40 percent of people over the age of 40. It is defined as a cluster of five simultaneous disorders: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood triglycerides (fats), low levels of HDL -- the so-called "good" cholesterol -- and high blood glucose levels. Inflammation, as indicated by high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood, is often found in people with metabolic syndrome as well. Together, these conditions strongly increase the risk of coronary heart disease, vascular disease, stroke, and type 2 II diabetes.

"What's bad for the body turns out to be bad for the brain," says Kristine Yaffe, associate professor of psychiatry, neurology, and epidemiology at UCSF and chief of geriatric psychiatry at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC). Dr. Yaffe led the five-year prospective study of more than 2,600 elders in Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The elders were approximately evenly divided between males and females and blacks and whites. By the end of the study, a total of 26 percent of the elders with the metabolic syndrome exhibited significant cognitive decline, compared with 21 percent w
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Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
jobrien@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
9-Nov-2004


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