Coronary Heart Disease is Linked with Higher Dementia Risk, Especially If You’re Diagnosed Young

Research has shown that global cases of cardiovascular disease nearly doubled between 1990 and 2019. Among the conditions included in this is coronary heart disease (CHD). A new study finds that having this disease may seriously impact a person’s brain health, especially if they were younger when they were diagnosed.

Research recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association investigated how the age at which a person develops CHD may impact their chances of developing all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, or vascular dementia. Using data from more than 400,000 people, the findings showed that CHD carries with it an increased risk of all three, especially if you were under 45 when you first developed the disease.

Doctor listens to young man's heart

Dr. Fanfan Zheng, senior author and researcher in the School of Nursing at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, says, “Coronary heart disease has previously been associated with dementia risk in older adults, however, this is believed to be the first large-scale study examining whether the age of coronary heart disease onset may impact the risk of developing dementia later in life.

“In previous research, we found that adults experienced accelerated cognitive decline after new diagnoses of coronary heart disease.”

This new research involved data on just over 430,000 participants in the long-running UK Biobank health study. Overall, 11.7% of these patients had CHD. Over an average 13-year follow-up period, 5,876 of the participants developed dementia, 2,540 developed Alzheimer’s, and 1,220 developed vascular dementia.

Young female doctor checks middle-aged woman's heart

The team found that, after adjusting for other factors, CHD patients had a 36% higher risk of developing dementia, a 13% higher risk of Alzheimer’s, and a 78% higher risk of vascular dementia. That’s compared with participants without CHD. The younger they were at diagnosis, the higher their chances were, as well, with those who were diagnosed under 45 facing a significantly higher risk compared to those without CHD.

Earlier onset was linked with a 25% higher risk of dementia, a 29% higher risk of Alzheimer’s, and a 22% increased risk of vascular dementia.

Dr. Zheng says, “What surprised us most was the linear relationship between age of coronary heart disease onset and dementia. This shows the huge detrimental influence of premature coronary heart disease on brain health. As more people live longer and are diagnosed with coronary heart disease at a younger age, it’s likely there will be a large increase in the number of people living with dementia in years to come.”

Two strawberries in shape of heart

The researchers noted some limitations to their study, including that most participants self-identified as white, meaning there wasn’t an overly diverse sample. It was also an observational study that doesn’t confirm cause and effect.

However, the researchers say their findings show the need to keep an eye on the neurocognitive health of patients diagnosed with CHD at a younger age to possibly lower their risk of developing dementia.

Many of the heart-healthy lifestyle choices you make can also benefit your brain health. To learn which of these choices may impact dementia risk, click here!

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