Issue: March 2011
March 01, 2011
1 min read

Older people with metabolic syndrome more likely to experience cognitive decline

Raffaitin C. Neurology. 2011;76:518-525.

Issue: March 2011
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Metabolic syndrome appears to significantly elevate risk for global cognitive decline in people aged 65 years and older, with features such as hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL levels, diabetes and hypertension, perhaps further increasing the risk for various types of memory loss.

“Cognitive decline, carrying a risk of converting to dementia, is responsible for considerable disability and health care costs,” researchers in France wrote in their study. “The potential contribution of modifiable cardiovascular risk factors raises the question of the associations between metabolic syndrome and cognitive functioning.”

As part of the longitudinal Three-City Study, the researchers examined 4,323 women and 2,764 men aged at least 65 years for metabolic syndrome and the presence and extent of cognitive decline at 2 or 4 years. Global cognitive function was measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE); verbal fluency by the Isaacs Set Test (IST); and visual working memory by the Benton Visual Retention Test (BVRT).

Of the 7,087 participants, 15.8% had metabolic syndrome. Having the condition considerably increased risk of cognitive decline at follow-up by 20%, according to MMSE results (HR=1.22; 95% CI, 1.08-1.37), and by 13%, according to BVRT results (HR=1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.26). IST scores, however, did not suggest any association between metabolic syndrome and increased risk for memory loss (HR=1.11; 95% CI, 0.95-1.29).

MMSE scores also singled out low HDL and hypertriglyceridemia as specific features of metabolic syndrome contributing to increased risk for memory loss, according to the researchers, whereas poor IST results were related to diabetes but not elevated fasting glucose levels. Low BVRT scores were associated with hypertension and diabetes, also without elevated fasting glucose levels.

“Our study sheds new light on how metabolic syndrome and the individual factors of the disease may affect cognitive health,” study researcher Christelle Raffaitin, MD, of the French National Institute of Health Research in Bordeaux, said in a press release. “Our results suggest that management of metabolic syndrome may help slow down age-related memory loss or delay the onset of dementia.”

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