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A new, large-scale study shows that having multiple conditions affecting the heart is associated with an increased risk of dementia compared to a higher genetic risk.

Led by the University of Oxford and the University of Exeter, the study is among the largest ever to examine the link between many heart-related conditions and dementia, and one of the few to investigate the complex issue of multiple health conditions.

Posted in healthy longevity lancet, The paper looked at data on more than 200,000 people, aged 60 or older, of European ancestry at Biobank in the UK. The international research team identified those who had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, stroke or heart attack, or any combination of the three, and those who developed dementia.

Within this study group, researchers found that the more of these three conditions a person had, the higher their risk of developing dementia. People with all three conditions were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with a high genetic risk.

Dr Shen Yu Tai, lead author and doctoral student at the University of Oxford, said: “Dementia is a major global issue, with a projected that 135 million worldwide will have a devastating condition by 2050. We found that the incidence of such heart-related conditions is associated with dementia risk to a greater extent than Genetic risk. So, whatever genetic risk you are born with, you can potentially make a significant impact in reducing your risk of dementia by taking care of your heart and metabolic health throughout life.”

The team, which included the universities of Glasgow and Michigan, found that nearly 20,000 participants in the UK’s Biobank had been diagnosed with one of the three conditions. Just over 2,000 had two cases, and 122 had all three.

Professor David Llewellyn, first author, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Clinical Health at the University of Exeter said: “Many studies look at the risk of a single condition in relation to dementia, but health is more complex than that. We know that many patients already have a combination of Cases Our study tells us that for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, stroke or heart attack, it is especially important to take care of their health and make sure they receive appropriate treatment, to prevent further problems as well as reduce their risk of dementia.”

The team divided the 200,000 participants into three categories of genetic risk from high to low, based on an overall risk score that reflects multiple genetic risk traits relevant to individuals of European ancestry. They also had brain imaging data from more than 12,000 participants, and found widespread damage throughout the brain for those with more than one case of cardiovascular disease. By contrast, higher genetic risks have been linked to deterioration only in certain parts of the brain.

Dr. Kenneth M. Langa, co-author of the study, and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Veterans Health Care System, said: “Our research indicates that protecting the heart throughout life is also likely to have significant benefits for the brain. To take care of your heart, you can exercise regularly. Eat a healthy diet and do everything possible to ensure that your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels fall within the guidelines.”

Dr Sarah Emarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The evidence is clear that what’s good for your heart is also good for your head. A person’s risk of developing dementia is a complex combination of their age, genetics and aspects of their lifestyle. In this study, researchers looked at data from A population age 60 or older, including whether they had certain heart conditions, information about their genes, and how it affected their risk of dementia.They found that people with multiple heart conditions were more likely to develop dementia than people with an increased risk. Alzheimer’s disease because of their genes.

These findings underscore the importance of addressing the causes of poor heart health, not only for its own sake, but also for the additional benefit in terms of reducing the number of cases of dementia. From the generosity of our supporters that enabled us to fund this work, to the altruism of the volunteers who made it possible, we want to say thank you, without doing research like this couldn’t have happened.

“If anyone is concerned about the health of your heart or brain, please speak to your doctor.”

Paper title “Multiple heart disease, genetic risk, and dementia: a prospective cohort study”. The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alan Turing Institute, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and Applied Collaboration in the Southwest Peninsula, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the JP Moulton Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health.

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