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Study reveals link between cardiovascular risk and cognitive decline

ithout the syndrome. The key factor, however, seemed to be the presence of inflammatory markers in the blood: 30 percent of elders who had both the syndrome and high inflammation showed cognitive decline at the end of five years, while only 23 percent with the syndrome and low inflammation demonstrated a similar decline.

Recent studies seem to indicate a yet-undetermined relationship between inflammation and Alzheimer's disease, says Yaffe, which gives her results broader implications, she says. "When people think about risk factors for cardiovascular disease, they're thinking about problems in terms of the heart, in terms of the body. But people usually don't think about how this might affect cognitive function." She says the results are particularly ominous in light of the increasing rate of obesity among Americans. "If we keep going, not only is the obesity epidemic going to lead to people having more strokes and heart disease and diabetes, but maybe it will [mean] a lot more people having dementia."

The study participants, both with and without the syndrome, were all mentally healthy at the beginning of the study and showed no signs of cognitive problems. All started out with high scores -- an average of 90 on a 100-point scale -- on a standard cognitive test called the Teng Modified Mini-Mental State Examination, which measures orientation, concentration, memory, and other mental factors. The same test was administered at three and five years. Cognitive decline was defined as a score at least five points lower than the initial score. In day-to-day terms, explains Yaffe, "The kind of change we were looking at on this test is the kind of change that most people would notice, or their families would notice. This is a group of people who started off being very healthy [mentally]. So in somebody who's declined this much, most people would be concerned."

Yaffe points out that, on the positive side, the risk of dementia might be
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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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