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Artery Res. 2008 Feb 1;2(1):35-43.

Vascular Health and Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Cardiovascular Disease.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital; Boston, MA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We hypothesized that changes in vascular flow dynamics resulting from age and cardiovascular disease (CVD) would correlate to neurocognitive capacities, even in adults screened to exclude dementia and neurological disease. We studied endothelial-dependent as well as endothelial-independent brachial responses in older adults with CVD to study the associations of vascular responses with cognition. Comprehensive neurocognitive testing was used to discern which specific cognitive domain(s) correlated to the vascular responses.

METHODS:

Eighty-eight independent, community-dwelling older adults (70.02+7.67 years) with mild to severe CVD were recruited. Enrollees were thoroughly screened to exclude neurological disease and dementia. Flow-mediated (endothelial-dependent) and nitroglycerin-mediated (endothelial-independent) brachial artery responses were assessed using 2-d ultrasound. Cognitive functioning was assessed using comprehensive neuropsychological testing. Linear regression analyses were used to evaluate the relationships between the endothelial-dependent and endothelial-independent vascular flow dynamics and specific domains of neurocognitive function.

RESULTS:

Endothelial-dependent and endothelial-independent brachial artery responses both correlated with neurocognitive testing indices. The strongest independent relationship was between endothelial function and measures of attention-executive functioning.

CONCLUSIONS:

Endothelial-dependent and endothelial-independent vascular responsiveness correlate with neurocognitive performance among older CVD patients, particularly in the attention-executive domain. While further study is needed to substantiate causal relationships, our data demonstrate that brachial responses serve as important markers of risk for common neurocognitive changes. Learning and behavior-modifying therapeutic strategies that compensate for such common, insidious neurocognitive limitations will likely improve caregiving efficacy.

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