JOURNAL ARTICLE

Carotid atherosclerosis and 10-year changes in cognitive function

Wenjun Zhong, Karen J Cruickshanks, Carla R Schubert, Charles W Acher, Cynthia M Carlsson, Barbara E K Klein, Ronald Klein, Richard J Chappell
Atherosclerosis 2012, 224 (2): 506-10
22854188

BACKGROUND: Carotid atherosclerosis has been suggested to be involved in cognitive decline.

METHODS: The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study is a longitudinal study of aging among Beaver Dam residents, WI. In 1998-2000, carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and plaque were measured by ultrasound; cognitive function was measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Follow-up examinations were conducted in 2003-2005 and 2009-2010. Incidence of cognitive impairment was defined as an MMSE score <24 or reported physician-diagnosed dementia during the follow-up. In the last examination, five additional cognitive tests were added. The associations of carotid atherosclerosis with incident cognitive impairment and cognitive test performance ten years later were evaluated.

RESULTS: A total of 1651 participants (mean age 66.8 years, 41% men) without cognitive impairment at baseline were included in the incidence analysis. IMT was associated with incidence of cognitive impairment after multiple adjustments (hazard ratio: 1.09, p = 0.02 for each 0.1 mm increase in IMT). A total of 1311 participants with atherosclerosis data at baseline had the additional cognitive tests 10 years later. Larger IMT was associated with longer time to complete the Trail-Making Test-part B after multiple adjustments (0.1 mm IMT: 2.3 s longer, p = 0.02). Plaque was not associated with incident cognitive impairment or cognitive test performance 10 years later.

CONCLUSIONS: In this population-based longitudinal study, carotid IMT was associated with a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment during the 10-year follow-up, and was associated with poorer performance in a test of executive function 10 years later.

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