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High Cholesterol, Hypertension May Harm Memory in Middle Age
Date:2/21/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Hypertension and high cholesterol may be linked to losses in memory and mental abilities in middle age, a new study finds.

Researchers in France assessed data on about 3,500 British men and 1,300 British women with an average age of 55 who participated in Whitehall II, a long-term study that tracked British civil servants.

Three times over the course of a decade, participants took tests that measured their reasoning skills, memory, fluency and vocabulary. The reasoning test was composed of 65 verbal and mathematical questions of increasing difficulty, and the memory test asked people to recall a list of 20 words. The fluency test asked participants to do such things as name as many words as they can, in one minute, that start with the letter "s" or name as many animals as they can.

Participants were also given a what's called a Framingham risk score, which takes into account a person's age, gender, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking history and diabetes status to predict the chances of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem sometime in the next 10 years.

Those who had poorer cardiovascular health were more likely to do worse on tests of memory and mental ability than were those who had better cardiovascular health, according to the study.

For example, a 10 percent higher cardiovascular risk score was associated with a 2.8 percent lower score on the memory test for men and a 7.1 percent lower score for women.

Over time, those who had worse cardiovascular health also saw steeper declines in mental tasks, with the exception of reasoning for men and fluency for women.

"We found that cardiovascular risk in middle age is related to lower overall cognitive function," said study co-author Sara Kaffashian, a doctoral student at INSERM, the French National Institute of Health & Medical Res
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