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Women in middle age may face greater cardiovascular risk : Study

New research suggests that most cardiovascular diseases have a greater impact on memory and thinking skills in women than they do for men.

The study was published in the “Neurology Journal”.

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“Our results show that midlife risk factors and cardiovascular conditions are associated with cognitive decline in the later years of life, but this association is stronger for women,” said Michelle M. Mielke (Doctor of Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.) and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Specifically, we discovered that certain cardiovascular conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and dyslipidemia had stronger associations with cognitive impairment in women than in men,” she said.

The study included 1,857 participants without dementia, who were aged between 50 and 69 at study’s beginning. For an average of three years, people were subject to a clinical assessment every 15 months. The nine cognitive tests included memory, language, executive function and spatial skills. This combined result was a composite cognitive score.

One-third of 1,465, or 79%, of participants, had at least one cardiovascular condition. Men had more risk factors than women: 83% for men and 75% for women.

Research showed that cognitive function was more closely associated with cardiovascular disease in women than it was for men. A decline in composite cognitive scores by women was more than twofold higher for heart disease than it was for men.

They also found that language score decline was only associated with women who had heart disease, diabetes, or abnormally high blood fat levels. Congestive heart failure was only associated with language score decrease in men.

Mielke stated that more research was needed to determine sex differences between cardiovascular risk factors and biomarkers for brain disease, such as white matter hyperintensities and areas of dead tissue and overall white matter integrity during midlife.

She added, “That might help us better understand sex-specific mechanism by which cardiovascular conditions and risk factors contribute cognitive impairment in women and men,”

The study had one limitation: participants came from Minnesota. Therefore, the results might not be applicable to other areas.

Although the study didn’t prove that women with cardiovascular risk factors would experience cognitive decline in their midlife years, it did show an association.

The National Institutes of Health, GHR Foundation, and the Rochester Epidemiology Project supported the study.

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