Everyone experiences them at one time or another - - temporary memory lapses. You open the refrigerator door only to forget what you wanted. Or, perhaps you lose the car keys only to find that they were in your pocket the entire time. Most of us chalk such temporary lapses up to stress or perhaps even make a few jokes about getting old. After all, isn’t memory loss just a normal part of aging? As it turns out, early memory and cognitive problems may be more than normal aging or stress. It could be a signal that you have a deeper health issue – cardiovascular disease.
Researchers with INSERM, the French National Institute of Health & Medical Research in Paris, released findings from their examination of the results of the Whitehall II study. The original Whitehall study began in 1967 and examined the cardiovascular health of more than 18,000 British civil servants. Whitehall II was a smaller study consisting of over 10,000 participants. For purposes of this study, the French researchers examined the results of 4,827 participants representing 3,486 men and 1,341 women. While the ages of participants varied, the average was 55 years.
During the course of the study, participants were given three cognition tests. The cognition tests examined participants’ responses in areas such as reasoning, fluency, vocabulary, and memory. Participants were also given a Framingham risk score for cardiovascular (heart) events. The Framingham risk score is a weighted measurement that predicts the likelihood of whether or not you’ll suffer a cardiovascular event over the next 10 years. Risk factors for heart disease such as age, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels (total and high-density lipoprotein or HDL), sex, and age are all weighted. The resulting score predicts your future susceptibility to a cardiovascular event.
Researchers found a direct correlation between the amount of cardiovascular risk and cognitive function and decline in cognitive function. Participants with the highest risk factors for heart disease were found to have much lower cognitive functions than their counterparts who were at low risk for cardiovascular events.