Association between vascular risk factors and dementia vary with age
18 May 2022
Research has shown that the association between vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and dementia varies with age. The findings were published in the journal Neurology today (Wednesday 18 May).
What did the scientists do?
Researchers in Ireland and the US used an established risk measure called the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile (FSRP) to study vascular risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and dementia risk in people aged 55 and above.
Participants in the study came from the Framingham Heart Study and included 4,899 people aged 55 at the start of the study.
People were followed up over five timepoints in mid to later life from 55, at ages 65, 70, 75 and 80, to assess their dementia risk.
What did the scientists find?
People with diabetes and high blood pressure from around the age of 65 had an increased risk of developing dementia in the next 10 years.
Diabetes, across all age points from 65-80, increased a person’s risk of developing dementia in the next 10 years. In midlife, people living with diabetes had a four times greater risk of developing dementia than those who didn’t.
Midlife high blood pressure also increased risk of developing dementia within the next 10 years, however, those who took antihypertensive drugs in later-life did reduce their risk somewhat.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“The findings from this study confirm existing research, which links vascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, with an increased risk of developing dementia in later life. We know that poorer vascular health can increase the chances of developing small vessel disease and other conditions that affect blood flow in the brain, which then damages our brain cells irreparably.
“Further work in a more representative group of people will ensure we understand the risk for people from different ethnic backgrounds who we know are already at a greater risk of vascular conditions.
“Studies like this are good for highlighting links, but we need to understand more about why and how these conditions affect dementia risk. With this knowledge, researchers can then design treatments and prevention strategies to benefit people in their midlife – a critical timepoint for reducing your risk of dementia.
“It is important to properly manage long-term health conditions and people who have concerns about any aspect of their health should speak to their GP.
“We do know that it’s never too early or too late in life to take steps to reduce our risk of dementia and improve our brain health. Not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying mentally, physically and socially active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age. Find information and advice on brain health at www.thinkbrainhealth.org.uk”