Image of clinician viewing brain scan results

Older adults with certain patterns of multimorbidity may be at higher risk for developing dementia, and good candidates for tailored prevention, new research suggests.

Investigators followed a total of 2,478 dementia‐free participants who had two or more chronic diseases as part of a Swedish national aging and care study. Volunteers were grouped according to their multimorbidity patterns and tested for dementia over time. The researchers also analyzed the potential effects of C‐reactive protein — a marker of brain and blood inflammation — and apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype on dementia risk.

Older adults with diagnoses of neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular multimorbidity had the highest likelihood of developing dementia over 12 years, reported Amaia Calderón‐Larrañaga, Ph.D., PharmD, of the University of Stockholm. Adults who had both sensory impairment and cancer had the next highest risk level. 

In addition, high serum CRP levels appeared to amplify risk in all multimorbidity patterns, suggesting that inflammation may further increase dementia odds, she and her colleagues concluded.

In the meantime, being a APOE ε4 carrier (a known risk factor for dementia) increased risk specifically in people with neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular multimorbidity. But these findings were not statistically significant, Calderón‐Larrañaga cautioned.

No association was found between the respiratory/metabolic/musculoskeletal illness cluster and dementia, although two known risk factors for dementia — sleep disorders and diabetes — are part of this cluster, the researchers noted.

“Accumulating evidence points toward a close interplay between body and mind in dementia development, and our study aligns with this literature,” they concluded.

Full findings were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.