Cardiovascular health and cognitive function: the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 3;9(3):e89317. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089317. eCollection 2014.


Background: Smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet, along with obesity, fasting glucose and blood pressure have been independently associated with poorer cognitive performance. Few studies have related scales representing a combination of these variables to multiple domains of cognitive performance. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between overall cardiovascular health, incorporating seven components, and cognitive function.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis employing 972 participants, from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study was undertaken. Four health behaviors (body mass index, physical activity, diet, smoking) and three health factors (total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting plasma glucose) were measured. Each was categorized according to the American Heart Association definitions for ideal cardiovascular health, except diet, for which two food scores were calculated. A Cardiovascular Health Score was determined by summing the number of cardiovascular metrics at ideal levels. Cognitive function was assessed using a thorough neuropsychological test battery.

Results: Cardiovascular Health Score was positively associated with seven out of eight measures of cognitive function, with adjustment for age, education, and gender. With further adjustment for cardiovascular and psychological variables, these associations remained significant for Visual-Spatial Memory, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Executive Function and the Global Composite score (p<0.05 for all). Ideal levels of a number of health factors and behaviors were positively associated with global cognitive performance.

Conclusion: Increasing cardiovascular health, indexed by a higher number of metrics at ideal levels, is associated with greater cognitive performance. Smoking, physical activity, and diet are important components of cardiovascular health that impact upon cognition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Maine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol