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Cardiovascular Disease Correlates with Memory Loss

Contemporary research has shown that there is an increasing correlation between cardiovascular risk factors and brain functionality. In a study conducted in France over a ten-year period, patients were tested on brain function including memory, reasoning, vocabulary and fluency.

Participants in the study were assessed and given a Framingham risk score, which predicts one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future. This score takes into account a variety of factors, including cholesterol level, age, blood pressure, smoking habits, and history of diabetes. They were then given memory tests, which they took 3 times during the 10-year study.

Over the course of ten years, patients with higher cardiovascular risk experienced a decrease in their level of brain function. A 10% increase in cardiovascular risk, as measured by the Framingham risk score, was associated with lower scores on the memory test—2.8% lower for men and 7.1% lower for women. Those with high cardiovascular risk also experienced, on average, a more rapid decline in cognitive function.

The results of this study come as no surprise to most health professionals. Many heart doctors have noted that cognitive decline and heart disease share many of the same risk factors, including smoking, hypertension and high cholesterol.

“As a cardiologist, it is my job to educate my patients on the risks of cardiovascular disease and the benefits to living a healthy lifestyle,” stated Dr. Steven Shayani, director of Long Island Heart Associates. “The increases in cardiac risk can decrease the blood flow to the brain and affect cognitive and overall mental capabilities.”

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