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Reduced Executive Function May Mean Higher CVD Risk

May signal need for closer attention to cardiovascular risk management

THURSDAY, Aug. 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Older adults with lower scores on executive function tests are significantly more likely to experience coronary heart disease or stroke, new research suggests. The study was published online Aug. 5 in Neurology.

Behnam Sabayan, M.D., Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues looked at 3,926 people with an average age of 75. None had a history of heart attack or stroke. But, all of the study volunteers either had a history of cardiovascular disease or an increased risk due to hypertension, diabetes, or smoking. None of the participants suffered from dementia. Participants took four tests of higher-level thinking skills indicating executive function and were placed into groups of low-, medium- and high-scorers based on the results. They were then tracked for an average of three years to determine their prevalence of coronary heart disease or stroke.

The team found that individuals with the lowest scores of executive function skills were at an 85 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease and 51 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those with the highest scores. In that time, 176 of 1,309 people with the lowest scores experienced a coronary event, compared with 93 of 1,308 people with the highest scores. Meanwhile, there were 69 strokes among those with the lowest scores, compared with 48 strokes among those with highest scores.

While participants with lower executive function scores were slightly older on average and had fewer years of education, the results stood even after adjustment for these factors, Sabayan told HealthDay. “Overall, our findings highlight that older [people] with lower executive function need closer attention in terms of cardiovascular risk management,” he said.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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