Heart disease has been linked to risk for dementia. But it is not clear which types of dementia are related to heart problems.
A recent study tracked people to see if they developed one of two types of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Heart disease did not raise the risk for the type of MCI tied to Alzheimer’s disease. But women with a history of heart disease were more likely to develop the form of MCI linked to developing other types of dementia.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a loss of memory or thinking skills that raises the risk of dementia, with about 30 percent of people with MCI developing dementia. There are two forms of MCI. In one form, memory is not affected but thinking skills are. This is called nonamnestic MCI (naMCI). The other form of MCI affects memory.
The study, led by Rosebud O. Roberts, MB, ChB, MS, at the Division of Epidemiology of the Mayo Clinic, tracked people for about four years.
The study included 2,719 people between the ages of 70 and 89 years. Researchers interviewed participants every 15 months to test their memory and thinking skills.
At the beginning of the study, the researchers used medical records to see who had a history of heart disease, which included conditions such as atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease and congestive heart failure.
At the start of the study, 1,450 people did not have MCI or dementia. During the course of the study, 366 people developed MCI.
Women, but not men, with heart disease were more likely to develop naMCI – the form that does not affect memory. Women with heart disease had a hazard ratio of 3.07 for developing naMCI.
A hazard ratio shows how often an event happens in one group versus another. Here, women who had heart disease were about three times more likely than women without to develop naMCI during the study.
Heart disease was not associated with developing the form of MCI that affects memory for either men or women.
naMCI is linked with a higher risk of developing dementias other than Alzheimer’s disease, like frontotemporal lobar degeneration or dementia with Lewy bodies.
The authors concluded, “Prevention and management of cardiac disease and vascular risk factors may reduce the risk of naMCI.”
This study was published January 28 in JAMA Neurology. The authors report financial links to multiple pharmaceutical companies. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert H. and Clarice Smith and Abigail van Buren Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program.