Cognitive Function and Changes in Cognitive Function as Predictors of Incident Cardiovascular Disease: The Women's Health Initiative Memory Study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2018 May 9;73(6):779-785. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx138.


Background: Cognitive impairment and decline may signal the increased risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD). We examined associations of global cognitive function, as measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) and changes in 3MS over time, with incident CVD, individual CVD outcomes, CVD death, and all-cause mortality.

Methods: A total of 5,596 women (≥ 60) from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study free of CVD at baseline were followed for an average of 7.1 years. The 3MS was measured at baseline and annually thereafter. Cox proportional hazards regressions were used to model associations between baseline 3MS and changes in 3MS and time to events.

Results: In the fully-adjusted models for every 5-point lower baseline 3MS score, the risk was 12% greater for incident CVD, 37% for HF, 35% for CVD death, and 24% for all-cause mortality. No significant relationships were found for coronary heart disease (CHD), angina, stroke/transient ischemic attack (TIA), or coronary revascularization. When change in 3MS was added as a time-varying covariate in the fully-adjusted models, for every 1-point/year greater decline in 3MS, the risk was 4% greater for incident CVD, 10% for CHD, 9% for Stroke/TIA, 17% for CVD death, and 13% for all-cause mortality.

Conclusions: In older women free of prevalent CVD at baseline, lower baseline global cognitive function or decline in global cognitive function over time, increased risk of incident CVD, CVD death, and all-cause mortality.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / epidemiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology