People with vascular conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure have an increased chance of getting dementia as they grow older, a new study has found.
The study, entitled “Determining Vascular Risk Factors for Dementia and Dementia Risk Prediction Across Mid’ to Later Life: The Framingham Heart Study,” appeared in the May 18 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Researchers found that people with diabetes who were 55 years old were four times more likely to later develop the brain disease than those who did not have diabetes at that age.
People over the age of 65 with cardiovascular disease were twice as likely to later develop dementia than those who did not have those conditions, the study found. People in their 70s who had diabetes or suffered strokes were more likely to develop dementia, and 80-year-olds with diabetes or stroke were 40-60% more likely to develop the illness.
“These findings can help us to more accurately predict a person’s future risk of developing dementia and make individualized recommendations on lifestyle changes and risk factor control to help reduce their risk of dementia later on,” said study author Emer R. McGrath, MB, Ph.D., of National University of Ireland Galway and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in an AAN news release.
“Dementia is a complicated disease and risk prediction scores need to be tailored to the individual,” he added in the release. “Our findings support the use of age-specific risk prediction scores for dementia instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.”
The study also found that taking blood pressure medications to control vascular risk factors helped reduced the risk of getting dementia.
For the study, researchers evaluated data from the Framingham Heart Study of 4,899 people starting around the age of 55 and studied their dementia risk at ages 65, 70, 75 and 80.
One limitation of the study is that most of the study participants were white so the results may not apply to people of other ethnic groups, the authors noted.