Objective: To document the presence and treatment of selected vascular risk factors in patients with vascular cognitive impairment and elements affecting undertreatment of vascular risk factors.
Design: Secondary analysis of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging database, which is a national, representative, cross-sectional study of the epidemiologic distribution of dementia in elderly people in Canada.
Patients: Institutionalized and community-dwelling elderly people.
Main outcome measures: Vascular risk factors, dementia diagnosed by standard methods, and medication use.
Results: Treatable vascular risk factors occurred significantly more often in patients with vascular cognitive impairment (with and without dementia) than in patients with probable Alzheimer disease or normal cognitive function. For example, 76% of patients with vascular dementia and 57% of those with vascular cognitive impairment without dementia had a history of stroke, compared with only 5% of those with probable Alzheimer disease and 7% of those with no cognitive loss. (For hypertension, the comparable figures are 55%, 48%, 24%, and 38%, respectively.) Potential undertreatment of vascular risk factors had little effect on mean control of vascular risk factors. For example, the mean (+/- SD) systolic blood pressure in those being treated was 144 +/- 26 mm Hg, compared with 142 +/- 25 mm Hg in those not receiving pharmacological treatment. In each group (treated vs untreated), the proportion of patients with a systolic blood pressure higher than 160 mm Hg was 20% and 16%, respectively. Potential undertreatment occurred most often in those with severe dementia and those living in nursing homes.
Conclusions: Vascular risk factors occurred more commonly in patients with vascular cognitive impairment compared with other patients, including those with other forms of dementia. When present, such risk factors were often treated pharmacologically, except in patients with severe dementia and those in long-term care institutions. Undertreatment does not, in general, result in worsened risk factor control.