JUN 12, 2022 2:00 PM PDT

Multiple Heart-Related Conditions Triples Dementia Risk

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

People who have multiple cardiometabolic conditions have a three times higher dementia risk than those with a high genetic risk for the condition. The study was published in The Lancet.

Dr. Xin You Tai, Lead Author and Doctoral Student at University of Oxford, said: "Dementia is a major global issue, with predictions that 135 million worldwide will have the devastating condition by 2050. We found that having such heart-related conditions is linked to dementia risk to a greater extent than genetic risk. So whatever genetic risk you were born with, you can potentially make a big impact on reducing risk of dementia by looking after heart and metabolic health throughout life."

For the study, the researchers examined health and genetic data from 203, 038 individuals from the UK Biobank. Participants were aged 60 and older, had no dementia at baseline, and were followed for up to 17 years. The data also included brain structural data for a subsample of 12, 236 patients. In particular, the researchers sought to explore the link between stroke, diabetes, or myocardial infarction and dementia. 

In the end, participants who had one of the cardiometabolic conditions were almost twice as likely to develop dementia than those without the condition. Those who had two cardiometabolic conditions were over three times as likely to develop dementia, and those with all three conditions were over five times as likely to develop dementia. 

From analyzing brain imaging data, the researchers further found that those with more than one cardiometabolic condition had widespread damage across the brain. By comparison, those with a high genetic risk only had deterioration in specific parts of the brain.

Dr. Kenneth M. Langa, Study Co-author, Professor of Medicine at the University of Michigan and Veteran Affairs, Ann Arbor Healthcare System, said: "Our research indicates that protecting the heart throughout life likely also has significant benefits for the brain. To look after your heart, you can engage in regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and do everything possible to ensure blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels fall within guidelines."


Sources: Science Daily, The Lancet

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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