Adults with risk factors for vascular disease could suffer from cognitive decline later in life, study reveals

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Those who smoke, are overweight, or have high blood pressure are more likely to have cognitive challenges later in life, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of California at Davis studied MRI scans of approximately 1,352 people for the purpose of identifying vascular risk factors.The subjects were part of the Framingham Offspring Cohort Study and had multiple scans over the past decade.

Among the results: researchers found that people with diabetes in mid-life lost brain volume faster in the hippocampus. Participants who smoked in mid-life lost their overall brain volume faster than non-smokers. Obese participants and those with hypertension were more likely to do badly on tests involving executive functioning or planning.

The good news is that the damage can be limited if recognized early enough, study author Charles DeCarli, M.D., said. “Our findings provide evidence that identifying these risk factors early in people of middle age could be useful in screening people for at-risk dementia and encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyle before it's too late,” he said. The study was published in the Aug. 2 issue of Neurology.
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