Researchers have yet again tied heart disease and poor circulation to mental decline in older people, especially women.
The new study, published online Jan. 28 in the journal JAMA Neurology, looked at early signs of mental decline that might predict later dementia.
Researchers led by Rosebud Roberts of the Mayo Clinic examined the cardiovascular and mental health of 1,450 people, aged 70 to 89.
They found that nearly one-fourth of the patients developed what is known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) over an average of four years of follow-up.
SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
People with MCI have memory or other thinking problems but do not have full-blown dementia.
There are different subtypes of MCI, some of which involve memory loss and some of which do not. In the new study, the Mayo team found that a history of heart disease was strongly associated with a form of MCI that involves poorer decision-making skills and difficulties in planning and organization, but not declines in memory.
This form of MCI can lead to dementia, but typically to forms of dementia other than Alzheimer's disease.
The link between heart disease and mental decline was seen in both men and women, but the association was strongest in women, the researchers said. They believe that the prevention and management of heart disease and other vascular risk factors could reduce patients' risk.
One expert said the study may be especially important for older women.
"For those women with coronary artery disease, there is the potential of developing diffuse vascular disease, and this can possibly be a precursor of vascular dementia," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.