28 November 2012

Smoking ages the brain more than high blood pressure

Researchers at King's College London analyzed data on smoking, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and body mass index, as well as the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke on the Framingham scale (used to assess the likelihood of a person developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke over the next 10 years) for more than 8,000 people over the age of 50, collected during the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (English Longitudinal Study of Aging).

4 and 8 years after inclusion in the study, its participants were tested for the level of cognitive abilities, including memory and executive functions (planning, motivation, impulse control and internal sense of time). The results of the two tests were combined into a single indicator of cognitive abilities. The memory test consisted of memorizing 10 unrelated words that had to be reproduced immediately and after some time. To assess executive functions, participants were asked to name as many animal species as possible within one minute, which allowed them to assess fluency of speech, as well as to cross out certain letters from the sequence, which demonstrated the ability to concentrate, the speed of thinking and visual scanning.

The analysis of the collected information showed that smoking had the most pronounced effect on the cognitive abilities of the participants, manifested by a decrease in the results of all three tests. The results of participants with a high body mass index, high blood pressure and those at risk for stroke also worsened, but the degree of deterioration varied for different tests. A high body mass index was associated with a deterioration in the results of memory tests, high blood pressure – with a decrease in the ability to remember and the general level of cognitive abilities, and a high risk of stroke – with a deterioration in the results of all three tests.

An interesting fact is that the effect of elevated blood pressure on cognitive functions was manifested only after 8 years of observation, which indicates a gradual aggravation of the condition over a long period. At the same time, a high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke was associated with a rapid deterioration of cognitive abilities (over 4 years). The researchers believe that this may be one of the reasons for the failure of short-term clinical trials, the purpose of which is to identify the positive effect of blood pressure-lowering drugs on cognitive function, which in fact may take long periods of time to identify.

Article by Alex Dregan et al. Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive decline in adults aged 50 and over: a population-based cohort study published in the journal Age and Aging.

Evgeniya Ryabtseva
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of King's College London:
Smoking and high blood pressure may be linked to ageing of the brain.


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