The faster you pile up heart disease risk factors, the greater your odds of developing dementia, a new study suggests.
Previous research has linked heart health threats such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity with mental decline and dementia.
Amassing those risk factors at a faster pace boosts your risk for Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, according to findings published online April 20 in the journal Neurology.
"Our study suggests that having an accelerated risk of cardiovascular disease, quickly accumulating more risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity, is predictive of dementia risk and associated with the emergence of memory decline," said study author Bryn Farnsworth von Cederwald, of Umeå University in Sweden.
"As a result, earlier interventions with people who have accelerated cardiovascular risks could be an effective way to help prevent further memory decline in the future," he said in a journal news release.
The study included more than 1,200 people (average age: 55) who did not have heart or memory problems at the outset and were followed for up to 25 years.
By the end of the study, about 6% had developed Alzheimer's disease and 3% developed dementia from vascular disease.
At the outset, participants' average 10-year risk of heart disease was between 17% and 23%. As time went on, heart disease risk remained stable in 22% of participants, increased moderately in 60%, and rose rapidly in 18%.
Compared to those with a stable heart disease risk, those with an accelerated risk were three to six times more likely to develop Alzheimer's, three to four times more likely to develop vascular dementia, and up to 1.4 times more likely to have memory decline, the study found.
"Several risk factors were elevated in people with an accelerated risk, indicating that such acceleration may come from an accumulation of damage from a combination of risk factors over time," Farnsworth von Cederwald said.
"Therefore," he added, "it is important to determine and address all risk factors in each person, such as reducing high blood pressure, stopping smoking and lowering BMI, rather than just address individual risk factors in an effort to prevent or slow dementia."