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Longitudinal CV Risk Inversely Linked to Cognitive Performance

MONDAY, May 10, 2021 -- Elevated systolic blood pressure, high serum total cholesterol, and obesity from childhood through adulthood are inversely associated with midlife cognitive performance, according to a study published online May 10 in Circulation.

Juuso O. Hakala, M.D., from the University of Turku in Finland, and colleagues examined cardiovascular risk factors from childhood to midlife, their accumulation, and midlife cognitive performance in a population-based cohort of 3,596 children (ages 3 to 18 years) who were repeatedly followed up for 31 years from 1980. A computerized test was used to perform cognitive testing in 2,026 participants at ages 34 to 49 years.

The researchers found that compared with consistently low values, consistently high systolic blood pressure and serum total cholesterol correlated with worse midlife episodic memory and associative learning. Compared with normal weight, obesity since childhood correlated with worse visual processing and sustained attention. There was an inverse association between cardiovascular risk factor accumulation and episodic memory and associative learning, visual processing and sustained attention, and reaction and movement time.

"Given the current lack of cure for the major causes of dementia, delaying the onset of clinical cognitive deficits should be in the key focus of cognitive health promotion," the authors write. "If the associations found in the present study are causal, early interventions on cardiovascular risk factors could offer an opportunity for primordial promotion of cognitive health."

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