Metabolic syndrome and cognitive impairment: current epidemiology and possible underlying mechanisms

J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;21(3):691-724. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091669.


A possible role of vascular and lifestyle-related factors was recently proposed for age-related changes of cognitive function, predementia syndromes, and cognitive decline of degenerative (Alzheimer's disease, AD) or vascular origin (vascular dementia, VaD). At present, cumulative evidence suggests that vascular risk factors may be important in the development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, and AD. Among vascular-related factors, metabolic syndrome (MetS) has been associated with the risk of cognitive decline, overall dementia, and VaD, but contrasting findings also existed on the possible role of MetS in AD. If MetS is associated with increased risk of developing cognitive impairment, regardless of mechanism, then early identification and treatment of these individuals at risk might offer new avenues for disease-course modification. Strategies towards early and effective risk factor management could be of value in reducing risk of metabolic and cognitive decline. Future research is needed to confirm the association between MetS and cognitive impairment and to determine the exact mechanism linking them. Such would provide important insights into the causes and interdependencies of predementia and dementia syndromes, and inspire novel strategies for treating and preventing these disorders. At present, vascular risk factor and MetS management could be employed to delay the onset of dementia syndromes or to prevent the progression of predementia syndromes. In the future, trials could be undertaken to determine whether modifications of these risk factors, including inflammation, could lower risk of developing cognitive decline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors