Research Projects

Are risk factors for heart disease linked to brain health?

Awarded to:
Dr Scott Chiesa (Alzheimer's Research UK David Carr Fellow)

Current award:

University College London

1 April 2022 - 31 March 2025

Full project name:

Exploring the role of early-life vascular risk factors linking heart and brain health






Heart disease and dementia are two of the most common causes of disability and death in the world today. Although distinct conditions, evidence suggests that similar risk factors may underlie both diseases. This implies that prevention strategies designed to protect the heart may also benefit the brain.

Scientists and doctors have long known that heart disease starts early in life. Poor health choices from as young as childhood can result in early changes to the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of a heart attack in later life.

Growing evidence now suggests that the same may apply to dementia. Decline in brain function can be the result of decades of damage. Yet it remains unclear how early this damage starts, and therefore at what age should health policies be aimed at to prevent dementia.

What will they do?

Dr Scott Chiesa from University College London will be analysing data from three of the UK’s largest and longest-running population studies. In combination, these studies will provide Dr Chiesa with data that covers the entire human lifespan from childhood to old age.

The aim is to investigate whether factors that cause damage to the heart and blood vessels in early life are linked to early changes within the brain, which may affect brain function later in life.

This study hopes to generate new knowledge that can inform public health policies targeting the prevention of these two conditions.

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Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.