High blood pressure and high cholesterol in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, as well as smoking in adolescence and young adulthood, were associated with worse midlife cognitive performance, especially memory and learning. Study participants with all risk factors within recommended levels between ages 6 and 24 performed better on cognitive testing than those exceeding all risk factor levels at least two-fold. In all, the difference corresponded to the effect of six years of aging.
“These findings support the need for active monitoring and treatment strategies against cardiovascular risk factors from childhood,” the authors conclude. “This shouldn’t just be a matter of cognitive deficits prevention, but one of primordial prevention.”
Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, MACC, editor-in-chief of JACC, adds that “Recent evidence has demonstrated that risk factors developed in adulthood can impact cognitive dysfunction in the elderly, if they have not been corrected. The findings in this paper are important, because they show that risk factors that develop at an even younger age can have the same adverse impact.”
In an accompanying editorial, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, FACC, and Norrina B. Allen, PhD, MPH, note that, “These findings extend our prior understanding on the accumulation of cardiovascular risk and cognition back into childhood and suggest that the adverse impacts on later-life health begin accruing very early in life.”
Rovio SP, Pahkala K, Nevalainen J, et al. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017;69:2279-89.
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