Healthy heart score in midlife linked to 50% lower risk of late-life dementia

January 13, 2021

A long-term study of 1,449 people in Finland found that those who had better scores on standard metrics of cardiovascular health in midlife, especially for behavioural factors such as smoking, had a lower risk of dementia later in life.

Participants’ heart health was evaluated from midlife to late life according to six factors classified as three behavioural (smoking status, physical activity, and body mass index) and three biological factors (fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, and blood pressure). Dementia was diagnosed in 61 people in the first follow up, and additional 47 people in the second.

The researchers found that participants with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health scores from midlife onwards, especially for behavioural factors, had a 54% lower risk of dementia later in life than participants with poor scores (after controlling for other factors).

While the researchers note that the limitations of this study include the lack of data on diet and midlife plasma glucose, and high rate of attrition, the findings do suggest that maintaining lifelong cardiovascular health, particularly in the areas of smoking, exercise, and body mass index, could reduce dementia risk later in life.

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