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Metabolic syndrome linked to cognitive, memory decline

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Older people with metabolic syndrome may be higher risk of memory loss, according to a new study from the French National Institute of Health Research.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following conditions: low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess belly fat, high triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and high blood sugar (diabetes). Metabolic syndrome is also tied to increased risk of heart attack.

Researchers looked at 7,087 people age 65 and older from three French cities and found 16 percent tested positive for metabolic syndrome. Participants were given a series of memory and cognitive function tests (including a memory test, a visual working-memory test and a word fluency test) at two years and four years from the beginning of the study.

The researchers found participants with metabolic syndrome were 20 percent more likely to have decreased cognition according to the memory test and 13 percent more likely to have cognitive decline on the visual working memory test compared to those who did not have the syndrome.

High triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol in particular were associated with poorer memory scores while diabetes was linked to poorer visual working-memory and word-fluency scores.

Study author Christelle Raffaitin, MD, said the study suggests better management of metabolic syndrome may slow memory loss in older individuals or possibly delay the onset of dementia.

High levels of HDL cholesterol has been shown to stave off Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

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Review Date: 
February 3, 2011
Last Updated:
February 5, 2011