Metabolic syndrome and 16-year cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 May;22(5):310-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2011.12.003. Epub 2012 Jan 29.


Purpose: To determine whether metabolic syndrome is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults.

Methods: A longitudinal study of 993 adults (mean 66.8 ± 8.7 years) from the Rancho Bernardo Study. Metabolic syndrome components, defined by 2001 NCEP-ATP III criteria, were measured in 1984-1987. Cognitive function was first assessed in 1988-1992. Cognitive assessments were repeated approximately every 4 years, for a maximum 16-year follow-up. Mixed-effects models examined longitudinal rate of cognitive decline by metabolic syndrome status, controlling for factors plausibly associated with cognitive function (diabetes, inflammation).

Results: Metabolic syndrome was more common in men than women (14% vs. 9%, p = .01). In women, metabolic syndrome was associated with greater executive function and long-term memory decline. These associations did not differ by inflammatory biomarker levels. Diabetes did not alter the association of metabolic syndrome with long-term recall but modified the association with executive function: metabolic syndrome was associated with accelerated executive function decline in diabetic women only. Metabolic syndrome was not related to rate of decline on any cognitive measure in men.

Conclusions: Metabolic syndrome was a risk factor for accelerated cognitive decline, but only in women. Prevention of metabolic syndrome may aid in maintenance of cognitive function with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors