A new study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and the Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders journal, found that middle-aged people who smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes are more likely to develop dementia later in life. The results of the study suggest that people should modify their lifestyle in order to gain better brain health later in life.
Researchers from the universities of Minnesota, North Carolina and John Hopkins and the University of Mississippi Medical Center studied more than 11,000 people aged 46-70 who were participants in a 1990 study, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities. The participants underwent a physical exam and cognitive testing. In 2004 the researchers followed up with the individuals to see how many had been hospitalized for dementia. The researchers identified 203 cases of hospitalization.
The results showed that smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are all strongly associated with dementia. The rates of hospitalization with dementia increased exponentially with age in men and women, and in different ethnic backgrounds. African American women had the highest rate of all.
• Current smokers were 70% more likely to be hospitalized for dementia later in life.
• Individuals with high blood pressure were 60% more likely.
• And people with diabetes were twice as likely.
The authors of the study say the results suggest that smoking cessation and prevention, or control of blood pressure and diabetes starting in midlife may have the added benefit of decreasing the risk factor of dementia hospitalization later in life.
In related research, published in the journal Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, researchers found that elevated cholesterol levels in midlife significantly increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research spanned four decades, studying 9,844 men and women starting when the individuals were 40 to 45 years of age. It is the largest long-term study with the most diverse population to examine midlife cholesterol levels and late in life dementia.
The findings were as follows:
-High cholesterol (240 or higher milligrams per deciliter of blood) increases by 66% the risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
-Borderline cholesterol (200-239 mg/dL) raised the risk by nearly the same amount.
“Our study shows that even moderately high cholesterol levels in your 40s puts people at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia decades later,” said the study’s senior author. Rachel Whitmer, Ph.D., a research scientist and epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.
“This study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, adds to other research emphasizing the importance of addressing dementia risk factors in midlife, before an underlying disease or symptoms appear,” the researchers said.
Summary of an article published on AlzheimersWeekly.com.