Heart Health May Be Related to Risk of Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, afflicts around five million Americans, reports the CDC. While age is the best-known risk factor, recent studies found links between the risks for heart attack and stroke (high blood pressure, for example) and the risk of developing these cognitive disorders.
Scientists at the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center investigated the link between Alzheimer’s and heart health. Looking at data from the ongoing Framingham Heart Study, Dr. Angela Jefferson and her team identified participants who developed Alzheimer’s or dementia over the 11-year follow-up period.
Overall, 32 of 1,000 participants from the Framingham’s Offspring Cohort developed a form of dementia, including 26 who developed Alzheimer’s disease. Their analysis found that those with a clinically low cardiac index (measure of heart function) were at double the relative risk of developing dementia compared to normal cardiac index patients.
Surprisingly, the team found that removing the patients with known heart disease from the analysis did not lower risk. In fact, it went up. Relative risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s among patients with no heart condition but low cardiac index was about three times that of individuals who had a normal cardiac index.
The cardiac index is a measurement of cardiac output, which is the amount of blood ejected by the left ventricle into the systemic circulation in one minute. The liters per minute is then indexed according to a patient’s body size. Dr. Jefferson notes that the study’s findings may suggest a subtle reduction of oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain over a lifetime.
In later stages, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can progress to a point where patients are no longer able to work and care for themselves. If you have a loved one who can no longer work due to cognitive impairment, he or she may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.