Healthy living

High blood pressure and cholesterol linked to memory problems

memory Also linked to heart disease

High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels may be linked to memory problems in middle age, research suggests.

Around two thirds of adults in the UK have blood cholesterol levels above the recommended limit of 5mm/L and one in four have high blood pressure, both of which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

In the study, 3,486 men and 1,341 women with an average age of 55 underwent memory and mental ability tests three times over a 10 year period. The tests were designed to measure reasoning, memory, fluency and vocabulary.

Participants were also given a Framingham risk score, which predicts an individual's 10 year risk of heart disease and stroke based on their age, sex, HDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure and whether they smoked or had diabetes.

The study found that those with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke performed less well in memory and mental ability tests.

A 10 per cent higher risk of heart disease was associated with a 2.8 percent lower score in the memory test for men and a 7.1 percent lower score in the memory test for women.

Overall, a higher risk of heart disease was associated with a faster rate of decline in mental ability in both men and women compared to people with a lower risk, researchers from the French National Institute of Health & Medical Research in Paris found.

"Our findings contribute to the mounting evidence for the role of cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, contributing to cognitive problems, starting in middle age," said Sara Kaffashian, who led the study.

"The study further demonstrates how these heart disease risk factors can contribute to cognitive decline over a 10-year period."

The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Honolulu in April.

This article was published on Tue 22 February 2011

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