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Cardiovascular risks may be worse for cognition in middle-aged women

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cardiovascular risk, either the probability of occurrence of a disease or a cardiovascular accident, women is a subject of vigilance. Indeed, if they are more protected than men until menopause (the hormones protect them), they then have the same probability of developingr cardiovascular disease after 60 years. Exposure to risk factors is implicated in this unfavorable development: increased smoking, decreased physical activity, alcohol consumption, increased prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes… However, differences were observed between men and women in the identification of cardio-neurovascular risk, access to care, characteristics of the disease and treatments.

A new study published in the review “ Neurology » suggests that although men are more likely than women to have cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, and risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking in middle age, the negative impact of most of these conditions on cognition (thought and memory) would be stronger for women. “Our results show that cardiovascular disease and the presence of midlife risk factors were associated with cognitive decline, but the association is stronger for women than for men. “, explains the main author of the study, Pr Michelle M. Mielke, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (United States).

Stronger associations with midlife cognitive decline in women

He adds: “We discovered more precisely that certain cardiovascular conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and dyslipidemia (high blood lipid concentration) had stronger associations with cognitive decline in women. The study involved 1,857 people without dementia aged 50 to 69 at the start of the study, who were clinically assessed every 15 months for three years. The exams included memory tests, language, executive function and spatial skills, the combined results of which were used to calculate a “cognitive score.” Overall, 1465 participants (79%) had at least one cardiovascular problem or risk factor.

Male participants were more likely to present at least one risk factor : 83% for men versus 75% for women. But the researchers found that most cardiovascular diseases were more strongly associated with poorer cognitive function in women. For example, heart disease were associated with a twice as large drop in cognitive score for women. Additionally, diabetes, heart disease, and abnormally high blood fat levels were associated with lower language scores only in women. Only heart failure (when the heart no longer pumps blood normally) was associated with a lower language score only in men.

“Further research is needed to examine the gender differences in the relationships between cardiovascular risk factors and specific biomarkers of brain disease. says Prof. Michelle M. Mielke. This may help to better understand the mechanisms gender specific, by which cardiovascular conditions and risk factors contribute to cognitive impairment in women and men. The researchers conclude that the study does not directly prove that women with cardiovascular risk factors will experience cognitive decline in their midlife, but shows an association which remains to be demonstrated in other studies. The next step will be to recruit a larger and more varied panel of participants.

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