Middle-aged men and women having high cholesterol and high blood pressure may not only be at risk for heart disease, but possibly develop early cognitive and memory problems as well.
For the study, 3,486 men and 1,341 women with an average age of 55 underwent cognitive tests three times over 10 years. The tests measured reasoning, memory, fluency and vocabulary.
Participants received a Framingham risk score that is used to predict 10-year risk of a cardiovascular event.
It is based on age, sex, HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, blood pressure and whether they smoked or had diabetes, according to the statement of the French National Institute of Health & Medical Research, Paris.
The study found that people who had higher cardiovascular risk were more likely to have lower cognitive function and a faster rate of overall cognitive decline compared to those with the lowest risk of heart disease.
A 10-percent higher cardiovascular risk was associated with poorer cognitive test scores in all areas except reasoning for men and fluency for women.
For example, a 10 percent higher cardiovascular risk was associated with a 2.8 percent lower score in the test of memory for men and a 7.1 percent lower score in the memory test for women.
"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 study author Sara Kaffashian, with INSERM, the French National Institute of Health & Medical Research in Paris.
The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9-16.