A new study by the Heart and Stroke foundation shows a link between cardiac conditions and the risk of developing dementia.
Dr. Michelle Plowman, a researcher at the Memorial University Medical School, specializing in neuroplasticity rehabilitation and brain recovery, said it's an alarm bell for people in this province who are at high risk for heart disease.
"It robs you of your ability to interact with your family," he said of the condition, known as vascular cognitive impairment. "Live this rich life, have telephone conversations, take care of your banks, take care of your family, drive, do the things you take for granted every day."
You have the chance to influence your aging right now– Dr. Michelle Plowman
Plowman said it is particularly troubling for people with something like heart failure, valve problems, atrial fibrillation or hypertension.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation conducted a comprehensive analysis of 2.6 million hospitalizations in Canada between 2007 and 2017.
It shows a deeper link between cardiovascular disease and the increased risk of vascular cognitive impairment compared to what was previously understood. It can lead to dementia.
Plowman said that high-risk lifestyle choices can accumulate, and the more you have, the more you are "preparing for dementia".
"You have a chance to influence your aging right now," he said. "So if you think about the major risk factors for vascular cognitive impairment – inactivity, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure – all of these factors influence your story along the way.I think we have an opportunity in our youth when we are young and we're having fun, trying to get those factors and throw them down one by one. "
Natasha Pinsent, a 44-year-old woman from St. John who had a heart attack two years ago, found the relationship unsettling.
"I'm very scared," he said. "I'm afraid it could lead to something as serious as dementia." We had it in my family. "
Pinsent said the relationship, for her, strengthened the need to take better care of herself.
"I'm quite active but reading this relationship will certainly eat healthier, becoming more and more active," he said. "I let you slip a bit, you know, I would definitely recommend people to consider [stopping] smoke, take your health more seriously because, you know, this is a rather meaningful discovery. "
Pinsent hopes the study will lead to better support systems for people recovering from vascular disease, increased awareness and better treatment and diagnosis in the health care system.
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The study also found that people who were previously thought to have a vascular condition are likely to develop – or already have – multiple conditions, many without knowing it until they cause irreparable damage. More than 1 million people examined in the study from 2007 to 2017 were readmitted during this period of time to be treated for a second condition.
One of the most striking examples is cognitive impairment, which can lead to dementia in its most severe form.
Many of these related conditions are not treated until they become health crises, according to the report, because the heart and the brain are connected by a vascular system but not necessarily noticed within the health system. Neglecting the connection can cause delays in the diagnosis and prevention of secondary diseases, which complicates the problems.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is raising awareness and invites healthcare and system providers to work together to create a lean and patient-centered model of healthcare.