Over the years, there have been studies trying to uncover the link between heart disease and dementia.
As a result, scientists now include heart disease as one of the risk factors that contribute to the development of dementia.
To get more information about this, here are examples of some of the studies that showcase the link between the development of dementia and heart disease.
Studies Explaining the Relationship between Heart Disease and Dementia
As mentioned earlier, researchers have conducted several studies on vascular risk factors concerning the development of dementia. Dr. Rebecca Gottesman led one of the studies at John Hopkins University. It was called the ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) study.
Together with her team, they studied about 16,000 middle-aged people over 25 years. These were persons who lived in four different states aged between 44-66 years. Researchers studied the participants with numerous medical tests at least five times. During the 2nd, 4th, and 5th exams, the participants underwent cognitive tests of thinking and memory.
Caregiver interviews, in-person visits, telephone interviews, death certificates, and hospitalization records were the methods that the researchers used to collect health data. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) funded the study.
Within the 25 year study period, over 1500 participants got dementia. The study confirmed reports that persons with vascular risk factors during midlife, like hypertension or diabetes, had higher chances of developing dementia.
Another study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association states that women should be given the same treatment as men when they have heart disease. This was conducted by a team of psychologists, neurologists, and cardiologists.
In their findings, they record that internists and cardiologists have a crucial role in preventing stokes, which can be done by giving women a similar treatment to men. This is important when learning about heart disease and dementia because the link between stroke and heart disease is quite significant. Stroke is one of the risk factors for coronary heart disease.
On the other hand, different forms of heart disease are also considered to be stroke risk factors. After extensive research, the professionals found out that women usually get less aggressive treatment when it comes to preventing strokes as opposed to men.
According to the experts on the study, receiving appropriate treatment can help to decrease the risk of stroke by 80%. They go further to state that receiving the adequate dose of blood thinners raises the dementia survival rate to 97% when compared to 85% for the individuals who do not get the correct dose.
In addition to this, the report also informs us that women who go through heart procedures without surgery, like the aortic valve procedure, experience more strokes but with less mortality.
Women also tend to have more brain injury after going through cardiac surgery when compared to males. The study does not define why the difference exists, citing that further research needs to be done to come up with a solid answer.
A third study specifically looked at the link between heart disease and dementia in women. This was titled “Cardiovascular Disease and Cognitive Decline in Postmenopausal Women. This stated that older women who had a history of heart diseases or other heart-related issues were at higher risk of developing dementia and memory and thinking problems than the ones without heart disease.
The study was released on 18th December 2013 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The lead author of the study was Dr. Bernhard Haring, who is based in Germany at the Comprehensive Heart Failure Center, which is part of the University of Wurzburg.
Researchers uncovered that women who experienced heart attacks were twice as likely to start experiencing declines in their memory and thinking skills. The researchers studied over 6000 women between the ages of 65-79. At the onset of the study, all the participants went through a brain function test and they were also asked if they had any heart problems. About 900 said that they had heart disease while none had memory or thinking problems.
After about eight years, over 400 women started showing signs of dementia or cognitive decline. The study found out that the ladies who already had heart disease were 29% more likely to experience cognitive problems than those who did not have heart disease.
The research also reported that women who have already experienced a heart attack were at higher risk of developing memory and thinking trouble. The same case also applied to those who have history or hardening of the arteries that transport blood to the feet and legs as well as those who have a history of peripheral vascular disease or bypass surgery.
It also stated that heart failure and abnormal heart rhythm were not linked to a decline in brain function.
Understanding the connection between heart disease and dementia is crucial one of the reasons multiple studies are conducted on the same. This is especially because dementia is not reversible, but heart disease is.
People should, therefore, adopt healthy practices like eating well, exercising, and getting quality sleep to keep heart diseases at bay as this might, in turn, prevent the development of dementia. This is even though scientists are still looking into the causes of dementia.
Individuals who already have heart disease should see their doctors regularly to keep blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes in check because this is vital for heart and brain health.