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Cognitive Function, Obesity and Hypertension- The Framingham Study

by Hratch L Karamanoukian, MD and Pierre Aoukar, MD
Posted: February 24

It is well known that patients with cardiovascular disease have an increased risk of developing dementia, including both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain.

The Framingham Heart Study data looked at the independent effects of obesity and hypertension on cognitive functioning in a prospective analysis of 551 men and 872 women. Subjects were classified as being either obese with hypertension or having neither risk factor (not obese and not having hypertension). The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, (volume 27: 260-268).

Surveillance occured over an 18 year period. Body mass index status (nonobese or obese) and blood pressure status (normotensive or hypertensive) were then related to cognitive performance (learning, memory, executive functioning, and abstract reasoning) on tests administered 4-6 y after enrollment. All subjects were free from dementia, stroke, and clinically diagnosed cardiovascular disease up to the time of cognitive testing.

Interestingly, the adverse effects of obesity and hypertension on cognitive performance were observed for men only. Obese and hypertensive men performed more poorly than men classified as either obese or hypertensive, and the best performance was observed in nonobese, normotensive men.

The conclusions from this landmark study are that it is best for men not to have hypertension and to be nonobese in order to avoid the development of cognitive dysfunction with aging.

The study authors concluded that "the adverse effects of obesity and hypertension in men are independent and cumulative with respect to cognitive deficit."

Excerpt from the book: Everything Is Bad For Your Heart: The A to Z Guide, Hratch L Karamanoukian, MD and Pierre Aoukar, MD. Magalhaes Scientific Press

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