Carotid intima-media thickness and cognitive function in elderly women: a population-based study

Pirjo Komulainen, Miia Kivipelto, Timo A Lakka, Maija Hassinen, Eeva-Liisa Helkala, Kristiina Patja, Aulikki Nissinen, Rainer Rauramaa
Neuroepidemiology 2007, 28 (4): 207-13

OBJECTIVE: Several vascular risk factors have been linked to cognitive decline. However, little is known about the association between the atherosclerotic process and cognitive impairment. We investigated whether carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) predicts the risk of cognitive impairment and whether the putative impairment is specific for some cognitive domains.

METHODS: A 12-year population-based follow-up study was performed for a total of 91 women, aged 60-70 years at baseline. Ultrasonographically assessed carotid artery IMT and the Mini-Mental State Examination test were performed at baseline and 12-year follow-up. A detailed cognitive evaluation for memory and cognitive speed was performed in 2003. The mean of left and right carotid bifurcation IMT was used in the analyses for association with the risk for poor cognitive speed and memory.

RESULTS: Increased IMT at baseline was an independent predictor for poor memory (beta = -5.004, 95% confidence interval = -7.74 to -2.27; p = 0.001) and cognitive speed (beta = 2.562, 95% confidence interval = 1.19-4.94; p = 0.035) at 12-year follow-up after adjustment for age, education, depression, plasma LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, hormone replacement therapy, smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity. The risk for poor memory (p = 0.023 for linear trend) and cognitive speed (p = 0.070 for linear trend) increased with increasing IMT tertiles.

CONCLUSIONS: Carotid IMT predicts an increased risk for cognitive impairment, particularly poor memory and cognitive speed, in elderly women.

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