Background: Dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular dementia, are disorders of aging populations and represent a significant economic burden. Evidence is accumulating to suggest that cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors may be instrumental in the development of dementia.
Objective: The goal of this review was to discuss the relationship between specific CVD risk factors and dementia and how current treatment strategies for dementia should focus on reducing CVD risks.
Methods: We conducted a review of the literature for the simultaneous presence of 2 major topics, cardiovascular risk factors and dementia (eg, AD). Special emphasis was placed on clinical outcome studies examining the effects of treatments of pharmacologically modifiable CVD risk factors on dementia and cognitive impairment.
Results: Lifestyle risk factors for CVD, such as obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and certain psychosocial factors, have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Some evidence suggests that effectively managing these factors may prevent cognitive decline/dementia. Randomized, placebo-controlled trials of antihypertensive medications have found that such therapy may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and limited data suggest a benefit for patients with AD. Some small open-label and randomized clinical trials of statins have observed positive effects on cognitive function; larger studies of statins in patients with AD are ongoing. Although more research is needed, current evidence indicates an association between CVD risk factors--such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus--and cognitive decline/dementia.
Conclusions: From a clinical perspective, these data further support the rationale for physicians to provide effective management of CVD risk factors and for patients to be compliant with such recommendations to possibly prevent cognitive decline/dementia.