Children who suffer high blood pressure, cholesterol are likely to have poor cognitive skills such as memory and learning in middle age, a study has found.
“While it is well known that high blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking are associated with poor cognitive performance in adults, the effects of these risk factors from childhood on midlife cognition were unknown,” said Suvi Rovio, senior scientist at the University of Turku in Finland.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the team analysed 3,596 individuals from childhood to adulthood.
Participants with all risk factors within recommended levels between ages 6-24 years performed better on cognitive testing than those exceeding all risk factor guidelines at least twice.
In all, the difference corresponded to the effect of six years of ageing due to this effects which also pose major risk factors for heart disease.
Further, individuals with the highest blood pressure had an 8.4 years’ difference in cognitive age compared to individuals with the lowest blood pressure.
Similarly, a 6.6 years difference between those with high and low cholesterol and a 3.4 years difference between smokers and non-smokers was found.
“These findings support the need for active monitoring and treatment strategies against cardiovascular risk factors from childhood,” Rovio said.
“The study extend our prior understanding on the accumulation of cardiovascular risk and cognition back into childhood and suggest that the adverse impacts on later-life health begin accruing very early in life,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, from Northwestern University in Chicago, in an accompanying editorial.