Dementia: Coronary heart disease before age 45 may heighten risk

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A close up image of a woman's collar bone featuring a tattoo depicting a heartbeat pulse lineShare on Pinterest
Scientists have found a link between early-onset coronary heart disease and dementia risk. Susana Ramírez/Stocksy
  • To investigate the potential connection between the age at which coronary heart disease is initially diagnosed and the development of dementia, researchers examined health data from the UK Biobank.
  • The new research suggests that individuals who are diagnosed with coronary heart disease as adults, especially when diagnosed before the age of 45, might face a heightened likelihood of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia as they grow older.
  • The findings underscore the need to consider heart health as a potential factor in cognitive well-being.

Dementia is a major health condition affecting older adults, leading to dependence and reduced functioning.

A Health Organization" rationale="Highly respected international organization">recent report from the World Health Organization revealed that in 2019, there were 55.2 million people worldwide living with dementia, and this number is expected to rise to 78 million by 2030.

This increase is due to factors like longer life expectancy and more dementia risk factors, which have caused a significant increase in dementia-related deaths, reaching 1.6 million in 2019 and making dementia the seventh leading cause of death.

Unfortunately, treatment options remain limited. Therefore, it’s crucial for healthcare professionals to focus on early detection and intervention in dementia risk factors.

This can help slow down cognitive decline and, ideally, delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

A new study examined the link between coronary heart disease and dementia. It is thought to be the first extensive examination of whether the age at which coronary heart disease is diagnosed could influence the likelihood of developing dementia in the future.

The study recorded a substantial number of dementia cases, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia throughout the study period.

Notably, individuals with coronary heart disease (CHD) were found to face higher risks of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia compared to those without this heart condition.

Even after considering factors like age and lifestyle, individuals with coronary heart disease had a 36% increased risk of dementia, a 13% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and a significant 78% greater risk of vascular dementia.

The next research avenue involves investigating whether early-life interventions to modify cardiovascular risk factors can potentially enhance brain Health in later life.

However, it’s important to note some limitations of the study. Firstly, it was an observational study, which means that the findings cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

Secondly, over 94% of the study’s participants from the UK Biobank identified as white, potentially limiting the generalisability of the findings to individuals of other racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Dr. Frederick James Meine III, interventional Cardiologist at Novant Health in Wilmington, North Carolina, not involved in this research, also spoke to MNT, saying “this paper shows a strong correlation between coronary disease and dementia, particularly vascular dementia.”

“When adjusted for baseline patient characteristics, most of the association appears to be driven by the correlation between vascular dementia and coronary artery disease,” Dr. Meine explained.

“This is not at all surprising given that coronary disease and cerebrovascular disease are similar processes and are driven by the same risk factors, i.e. hypertension, hyperlipidemia, tobacco abuse, etc. What the paper shows is that earlier onset CAD is associated with dementia as well.”

“There does appear to be a slight correlation to Alzheimer’s dementia as well, but this is less well correlated, and in addition because the diagnoses of dementia are taken from databases, there is no way to ascertain the accuracy of the cause of the dementia.”
— Dr. Frederick James Meine III

Dr. Meine concluded that “overall, though, this tells us that we need to continue to be very clear to our patients —especially our young patients— how important it is to manage their overall health and cardiovascular/cerebrovascular risk factors.”

“In short, it is never too early to start managing your cardiac or cerebrovascular health!” he added.

Share this Article