Cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance in aging

ABSTRACT. Background. Atherosclerosis in cerebral blood vessels, especially those which compose the Circle of Willis, can lead to reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to different cortical structures, affecting cognitive function. Objective: To analyze whether cardiovascular risk factors negatively influence cognitive performance in adults and elderly. Methods: One hundred twenty-nine participants of both sexes, aged over 50 years, without cognitive or functional impairment were included. Body mass index (BMI), hypertension (HTN), diabetes mellitus (DM), smoking history, plasma levels of total cholesterol, low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL) and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose were the cardiovascular risk factors analyzed. Cognitive assessment was performed using tests of attention, working memory, category fluency and declarative memory. Results: Controlling for age and education, multivariate linear regression models revealed that higher concentrations of triglycerides, as well as total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol, were associated with poorer performance on the digit span and category fluency tests. Higher HDL concentrations were associated with higher scores on category fluency tasks. Furthermore, higher BMI was associated with poorer delayed recall performance. Conclusion: The findings revealed that cardiovascular risk factors may negatively impact cognitive performance in aging.