Early heart disease


Roundup: Early Heart Disease Linked to Higher Risk of Dementia; Long-Term Risks of Pregnancy-Related Hypertension; and More News

Heart Disease Before Age 45 May Significantly Raise Risk of Dementia Later in Life

Adults diagnosed with coronary heart disease before age 45 had a significantly increased risk of developing dementia, compared to counterparts who did not have coronary heart disease, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Previous studies have shown that coronary heart disease is a risk factor for developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia later in life. In the new study, researchers determined the potential link between age at coronary heart disease onset and the development of dementia by reviewing health data from the UK Biobank.

Among the 432,667 participants in the study, there were 5,876 cases of dementia, 2,540 cases of Alzheimer’s disease and 1,220 cases of vascular dementia that occurred over an average of 13 years of follow-up.

“Coronary heart disease has previously been associated with dementia risk in older adults, however, this is believed to be the first large-scale study examining whether the age of coronary heart disease onset may impact the risk of developing dementia later in life,” said Fanfan Zheng, Ph.D., senior study author and researcher in the School of Nursing at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China, in a statement published by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Highlights of the new research, according to the AHA:

  • Compared with participants who did not have coronary heart disease, participants with coronary heart disease had higher risks of developing dementia from any cause, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
  • After adjusting the analysis for demographic and lifestyle factors, participants with coronary heart disease had a 36 percent increased risk of developing dementia, a 13 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a 78 percent higher risk of developing vascular dementia.
  • Earlier coronary heart disease-onset was associated with a 25 percent increased risk of dementia, a 29 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 22 percent increased risk of vascular dementia.
  • The risk of dementia rose in direct proportion to the younger age of coronary heart disease onset (per 10-year decrease in age).

“What surprised us most was the linear relationship between age of coronary heart disease onset and dementia. This shows the huge detrimental influence of premature coronary heart disease on brain health,” Zheng said in an AHA-published statement. “As more people live longer and are diagnosed with coronary heart disease at a younger age, it’s likely there will be a large increase in the number of people living with dementia in years to come.”

NIH: Hispanic/Latina Women May Face Issues in Heart Structure, Function Decades After Pregnancy-Related Hypertension

Women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) – conditions marked by high blood pressure during pregnancy – are at higher risk of developing heart disease later in life. A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that Hispanic/Latina women are more likely to have “abnormalities in their heart structure and function decades later when compared with women without a history of HDP."

The findings, published in the journal Hypertension, also indicate that while having high blood pressure later in life can contribute to these abnormalities, HDP could play the greater role, significantly raising a woman’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

“The changes in cardiac structure and function that this study uncovers are known predictors of cardiovascular events such as heart failure and even death,” said Jasmina Varagic, Ph.D., program officer in the Vascular Biology and Hypertension branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, in a statement. “These findings emphasize the importance of recognizing HDP as an important risk factor for these future problems, especially in this understudied population of women.”

The rates of HDP, which include preeclampsia, eclampsia, and gestational hypertension, more than doubled between 2007-2019 in the U.S., with Hispanic/Latina women having the highest rate of more than 60 cases per 1000 live births, the NIH states.

Previous studies have found that up to 20 percent of women who have HDP will continue to have high blood pressure six months after giving birth --  and will also have up to a 10-fold lifetime risk of chronic hypertension. But researchers were unclear just how HDP was driving the high risk of cardiovascular disease many of these women later developed. 

“Prior to our study the question was: Do abnormalities in the structure and function of the heart develop because of the HDP itself, or because many of the women who have HDP then go on to develop chronic high blood pressure?” asked Odayme Quesada, M.D., medical director for The Christ Hospital Women's Heart Center, and lead author on the study, in a statement. “Our study helps to answer this question.”

Researchers derived their data from participants in the NHLBI-funded Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), a multi-center, community-based cohort of Hispanic/Latino adults. The cohort included 5,168 women who had at least one prior pregnancy and whose average age was 58.7 years -– well past childbearing age – at the time of the study, the NIH stated.

Breathing Traffic-related Air Pollution Can Raise Your Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Previous studies have linked long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution, a mixture of exhaust from tailpipes, brake and tire wear, and road dust, to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, asthma, lung cancer and death.

New research from the University of Washington indicates those same health risks are also possible in people traveling busy roads. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that “unfiltered air from rush-hour traffic significantly increased passengers’ blood pressure, both while in the car and up to 24 hours later,” states a news release on the study from the University of Washington (UW). 

The most notable conclusion: The size of the increase in blood pressure is comparable to the effect of a high-sodium diet. 

“The body has a complex set of systems to try to keep blood pressure to your brain the same all the time. It’s a very complex, tightly regulated system, and it appears that somewhere, in one of those mechanisms, traffic-related air pollution interferes with blood pressure,” said Joel Kaufman, a UW physician and professor of environmental and occupational health sciences who led the study.  

UW Researchers drove healthy participants between the ages of 22 and 45 through rush-hour Seattle traffic. During the rides, they monitored the participants’ blood pressure. On two of the drives, unfiltered road air was allowed to enter the car, reflecting the most common conditions for commuters. On the third, the car was equipped with high-quality HEPA filters that blocked out 86 percent of particulate pollution. Participants did not know whether they were on a clean air drive or a roadway air drive. 

The UW statement: “Breathing unfiltered air resulted in net blood pressure increases of more than 4.50 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) when compared to drives with filtered air. The increase occurred rapidly, peaking about an hour into the drive and holding steady for at least 24 hours. Researchers did not test past the 24-hour mark.” 

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