New European research has found that those exposed to cardiovascular risk factors as children and teens, such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have poorer learning ability and memory later in life.
Carried out by the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku, Finland, the study followed 2,026 participants aged between 3 and 18 at the start of the study for a 31-year period.
Whereas previous studies have looked at an association between cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive performance, the new research looked at the possible link throughout the whole lifespan.
Blood pressure, serum LDL-cholesterol levels, body mass index, and smoking were assessed in follow-ups during the study, with participants’ cognitive performance assessed later in life when aged 34 to 49 years.
The results showed that high blood pressure and high serum LDL-cholesterol level in childhood and adolescence, as well as smoking in adolescence, were all associated with poorer cognitive performance in later in life, regardless of the presence of these risk factors in adulthood.
The difference in cognitive performance between participants exposed to levels of cardiovascular risk factors above the recommended guidelines and those who always remained within the guideline was equivalent to six years of aging.
As the global population continues to age, cognitive problems such as difficulties in learning and memory are becoming more common. The team now believe that the findings suggest that aiming to prevent exposure to these cardiovascular risk factors in children and teens is one way to promote brain health later in life.
The results can be found published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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