DOI: 10.1002/alz.078294 ISSN: 1552-5260

Cardiovascular health and the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia in a biracial population‐based study

Anisa Dhana, Charles Decarli, Klodian Dhana, Pankaja Desai, Thomas Monroe Holland, Denis A Evans, Kumar B Rajan
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



The cardiovascular health (CVH) index, created by the American Heart Association (AHA) to assess and monitor the risk of cardiovascular disease, has been related to dementia risk. However, evidence is limited, and most studies originate from populations comprised of primarily white participants. We examined the association of the CVH index with the risk of incident Alzheimer’s dementia in a biracial population‐based study.


Our study consisted of 1,702 non‐Hispanic Black and white participants of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a population‐based cohort. CVH was based on seven risk factors: diet, physical activity, body mass index, smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes. Following AHA recommendations, we assigned points of 0, 1, or 2 based on adherence to each factor, with an overall score ranging from 0 to 14 – a higher score indicates better cardiovascular health. Clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia was based on the NINCDS‐ADRDA criteria. Cox proportional hazard models were used to compute the hazard ratio and 95% confidence interval. Models were adjusted for age, sex, race, education, ApoE4 allele, cognitive activities, and cardiovascular disease.


The average baseline age of the study population was 73 years and comprised 62% women and 53% black participants. During 14,226 person‐years of follow‐up, there were 351 incident Alzheimer’s dementia. In a multivariable‐adjusted model, CVH was linearly associated with a lower risk of incident Alzheimer’s dementia. For each additional CVH score, the HR was lower by 0.84 (95% CI 0.76 ‐ 0.94). Compared to individuals with inadequate CVH (score: 0‐6), the HRs (95% CIs) of incident Alzheimer’s dementia in participants with average (7‐9) and optimal CVH (10‐14) was 0.44 (95%CI 0.28 ‐ 0.69) and 0.37 (95%CI 0.21 ‐ 0.65), respectively. We found similar associations between CVH score, per one additional score, and risk of Alzheimer’s dementia in Black (HR 0.84, 95%CI 0.74 ‐ 0.95) and white (HR 0.83, 95%CI 0.7 ‐ 0.98) individuals.


In a biracial cohort of older adults, the cardiovascular health burden was higher among Black individuals. However, promoting a better CVH in the general population may help lower dementia risk in Black and white older adults.

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