Conference Coverage

Diastolic dysfunction is a common risk factor for cognitive decline


Earlier interventions

Commenting on the study, Marco R. Di Tullio, MD, professor of medicine and Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, who is also studying the relationship between subclinical cardiac abnormalities and cognition, said: “This is a promising area of research, as it might allow us to uncover novel risk factors for cognitive decline at an early stage, before the development of clinically manifest cardiac disease, which might allow earlier interventions to decrease or delay the onset of cognitive decline.”

Dr. Di Tullio added that he would like to know more about the interaction between diastolic dysfunction, MRI abnormalities, and cognitive impairment risk. “In this study, MRI abnormalities and cognitive impairment are treated as separate outcomes, with diastolic dysfunction being the exposure for each of them. An additional analysis of the association between diastolic dysfunction and cognitive impairment stratified by presence or absence of brain MRI findings would have been interesting.”

Dr. Parker responded that this is an area of investigation. “We suspect that our cognitive findings would not be explained by any one MRI measure, though a comprehensive examination of MRI findings would be of benefit. The thought that there may be a reversible cardiac abnormality that does not have a structural brain imaging correlate on MRI is an interesting possibility,” she said.

Dr. Di Tullio also pointed out that at present, there is no specific treatment for diastolic dysfunction other than to address some the conditions that predispose to it, such as hypertension and atrial fibrillation.

“We completely agree that specific treatments are an area of investigation and that treatment is therefore targeted at associated modifiable conditions,” Dr. Parker replied.

With regard to more specific estimates of the prevalence of diastolic dysfunction, Dr. Parker cites another Framingham analysis that involved 2,355 persons without any prevalent cardiovascular conditions. That study found that diastolic dysfunction was rare until 50 years of age and then gradually increased with age.

About 5% of people in their 50s had mild diastolic dysfunction, and about 3% had moderate to severe diastolic dysfunction. Among persons in their 60s, about 18% had mild and 5% had severe diastolic dysfunction. Among persons in their 70s, mild diastolic dysfunction occurred in 35%, and moderate to severe disease was present in 18%; and in persons older than 80 years, nearly half had mild and about 20% had moderate to severe diastolic dysfunction.

Dr. Parker has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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