Diabetes and high systolic blood pressure can increase dementia risk

Diabetes and high systolic blood pressure can increase dementia risk
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People with multiple cardiometabolic conditions such as diabetes and high systolic blood pressure are more likely to develop dementia, according to the University of Surrey.

The University of Surrey researchers examined how co-occurring cardiometabolic conditions such as low/high‐density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, diastolic and systolic blood pressure, hyperglycaemia, diabetes, and inflammation interact with one another.

The researchers also found that people living in China have an increased risk of developing dementia if they were obese and suffered from hypertension.

“Dementia affects 55 million people worldwide and there is currently no cure, so prevention is key. Cardiometabolic conditions have been shown to increase the likelihood of developing the syndrome due to their link with vascular, biological, and neurodegenerative diseases, which might accelerate brain ageing and cognitive decline,” said Panagiota Kontari, a post-graduate researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey.

“Understanding how cardiometabolic conditions are clustered and which particular combination of them leads to a greater risk of dementia across the world is important as such knowledge could help design tailored prevention strategies that target varying risk factors in different countries,” he continued.

This study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Patients’ results depend on their location

The researchers analysed at how different clusters of cardiometabolic conditions were associated with the risk of developing dementia in older adults in England, the US and China. They found that different variations of these clusters provided different results across the countries.

A total of 18,500 participants, aged 50 and older in England, the US and China, were included in the study. Each patient recorded their cardiometabolic status and if they developed dementia later in life. Participants were divided into three groups based on their medical status: relatively healthy/healthy obesity,’ ‘obesity-hypertension’ and ‘complex cardiometabolic’. ‘Complex cardiometabolic’ included patients with multiple conditions such as obesity, high systolic blood pressure, diabetes and high glucose.

The researchers found that across all three samples, a total of 1,230 participants developed dementia (6.3% from the UK, 9.3% in the US, and 5.2% in China). The evidence clearly showed that patients from England and the US with diabetes and high systolic blood pressure had a higher risk of developing dementia, than those with a healthy cardiometabolic profile.

Diabetes and systolic blood pressure did not affect Chinese participants

Unlike participants in England and the US, participants from China had a higher probability of developing dementia if they had obesity and hypertension.

The researchers believe the prevalence of midlife obesity, hypertension and physical inactivity that has been increasing in the country could be the cause of these disparities. The research team hypothesise that the westernisation of society and rapid economic growth over the last three decades has led to a reduction in the quality of healthcare.

“In the UK and the US, complex cardiometabolic conditions such as diabetes and systolic blood pressure are associated with higher rates of dementia incidence whereas in a Chinese sample, a different cardiometabolic profile seems to be linked to an increased risk of dementia,” said Dr Kimberley Smith, Senior lecturer in Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Surrey.

“This is an interesting preliminary result which we would need to see confirmed in other studies before making any concrete recommendations. This study indicates that we should carefully examine different patterns of risk for dementia across different countries rather than assuming that work conducted in so-called WEIRD (white, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic populations) will generalise to other countries. It will be interesting for future work to examine this relationship in other global majority contexts,” she concluded.


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