Heart rate increases in old age could be a distinct risk factor of dementia

According to a research study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, an elevated resting rate in old age could be a risk factor for dementia. Since resting heart rates are easy to determine and can be reduced through physical exercise or medical treatment Researchers believe it could help to identify people with more risk of developing dementia and prompt intervention.

The number of people with dementia is expected to grow to 139 million people worldwide in 2050, up from 55 million in 2020 according to the organization Alzheimer’s Disease International. There is currently no cure for dementia, however increasing evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and cardiovascular health can help slow the onset of dementia and reduce the symptoms.

The researchers examined the possibility that resting heart rates in the 2,147 individuals aged 60 or over living in Stockholm were linked to cognitive decline and dementia, independent of other known risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease.

The study, which followed participants for up to 12 years, found that people with a resting rate of 80 beats per minute or more averaged 55 percent greater risk of dementia than those who had a heart rate of 60-69 beats per minute. After adjustment for possible confounders, such as various cardiovascular diseases, the association was still significant. Researchers cautioned that the result could have been influenced by undiagnosed cardiovascular events , or the fact that more participants with heart diseases died during the follow up period. This could have meant that there was less time for the development of dementia.

The study cannot establish a causal relationship, but the researchers offer several plausible explanations for this association, including the effect of underlying cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular risk factors, stiffened arteries and an imbalance between parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve functions.

We believe it is important to explore if resting heart rate can help identify patients with high dementia risk. If we monitor such patients’ cognitive function carefully and intervene at a young age, the onset of dementia could be delayed, which can significantly impact their quality of life.”

Yume Imahori, the study’s principal researcher, author, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institut

Journal reference:

Imahori, Y., et al. (2021) Association of resting heart rate with dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: a population-based cohort study. Alzheimer s & Dementia.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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