January 25, 2024

Early Onset Coronary Heart Disease Linked to Higher Dementia Risk in Later Life

A research study published recently in the American Heart Association’s Journal rings alarm bells for those diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD) before age 45. The study flags a potential spike in dementia, Alzheimer’s, and vascular dementia risks later in life which evokes a shock among the cardiologists in the U.S. especially those from Advanced Cardiovascular Center, Buckeye.

Dementia isn’t just a condition; it’s a leading cause of dependency and disability among the elderly, causing a whopping 55.2 million worldwide to grapple with it in 2019. The World Health Organization projects this number to surge to 78 million by 2030 and a staggering 81.1 million by 2040. Unfortunately, this rise has coincided with a stark uptick in dementia-related deaths, hitting 1.6 million in 2019 alone and ranking it seventh among leading causes of death.

With no silver bullet cure, early detection and management of dementia risk factors become paramount. This scramble is necessary to slow down cognitive decline or, better yet, stave off dementia’s onset.

Cardiovascular specialists, especially those from the cardiac care center in Buckeye, revealed that the spotlight on cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) grows brighter due to shared risk factors with dementia, like hypertension, diabetes, and smoking. Amidst the CVD bunch, coronary heart disease (CHD) stands tall as a prime suspect closely linked to cognitive decline and dementia. Studies tracking cognitive decline before and after CHD incidents reveal acceleration in cognitive downturn post-CHD.

A meta-analysis amplifies concerns, revealing a 1.26 relative risk increase of dementia in CHD patients. Age plays a role too; the younger one is diagnosed with CHD, the longer the window for potential cognitive deterioration after the event, heightening dementia risks. This speculation stems from the understanding that a lengthier bout of CHD tends to yield more vascular lesions, aggravating health outcomes.

In essence, this study nudges us to ponder not just the heart’s well-being but also its shadow on cognitive health. For those who dealt with CHD early in life, the looming risk of dementia serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between heart and mind, urging vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard against this cognitive predator. 

In dissecting the intricate tapestry of health connections, Dr. Fanfan Zheng, a distinguished researcher from the School of Nursing at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China, elucidated a novel facet. With an enigmatic interplay between coronary heart disease and dementia, their team embarked on a pioneering expedition, marking the inaugural expansive scrutiny into the temporal dimension of this correlation. Prior observations hinted at a nexus between coronary heart disease and dementia among the elderly. However, the expansive endeavor seeks to unravel the influence of age at the onset of coronary heart disease on the subsequent emergence of dementia.

The aforementioned research unveiled a hastened cognitive downturn post-diagnosis of coronary heart disease, prompting the researchers to meticulously pore over health data from the UK Biobank in a bid to fathom the relationship between disease onset age and the advent of dementia.

In this study, a bunch of folks, around 432,667 of them, got looked into. They kept tabs for like 13 years, checking out what happened to them. Among these folks, some got hit with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and vascular dementia—5,876 with dementia, 2,540 with Alzheimer’s, and 1,220 with vascular dementia.

Guess what? Those with coronary heart disease? They had bigger chances of getting these types of dementia compared to those without it. Like, 36% more chance of dementia, 13% for Alzheimer’s, and a whopping 78% for vascular dementia.

Get this, the earlier someone got coronary heart disease, the more likely they were to get these types of dementia. For every 10 years younger they were when they got heart disease, their chances of dementia shot up by 25%, Alzheimer’s by 29%, and vascular dementia by 22%.

And get this twist: the younger you get hit with heart disease, the higher your chances for dementia. Like, folks under 45 with heart disease had way more risk for dementia compared to those without it. So, yeah, heart health seems linked to how your brain fares down the line.

Zheng pointed out something really surprising. He found a connection between when someone gets heart disease and the chances of getting dementia later on. It’s a big deal because it shows how getting heart disease early can mess with your brain health. Zheng further revealed that more and more folks are living longer but getting heart disease younger. That means we might see a lot more people dealing with dementia down the road. Cardiologists, including those from the cardiac care center in Buckeye, need to pay attention to folks diagnosed with heart disease early on. Now, the researchers have to figure out if fixing heart problems early can help keep our brains healthy later on.

Study details and background:

  • The UK Biobank, this massive biomedical database jam-packed with health records of around 500,000 adults, got its squad together between 2006 and 2010. These are folks who call the U.K. home and have been under the care of the National Health Service. Fast forward to May 2022, the researchers cracked open this treasure trove and sifted through health records from October to December 2022.
  • Hold on tight, ’cause here come the numbers: Out of the 432,667 adults whose health records were under the microscope, their average age clocked in at 57 when they joined the Biobank. Over half of them, roughly 54.6%, were women. Now, 11.7% of the crew – that’s 50,685 adults – were dealing with coronary heart disease at the time they joined and throughout the follow-up period. But wait, 240 adults had to take a backseat ’cause their data on when they got hit with coronary heart disease went AWOL.
  • The researchers didn’t just stop at the basics. Nope, they dug deeper, considering stuff like age, gender, race, education – you name it. Lifestyle factors got their fair share of attention too, from smoking habits to how much the participants hit the bottle or busted a move with some exercise. Health-wise, they didn’t miss a beat, checking body mass index, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes, statin use, and even if someone was packing the APOE4 gene, which spells trouble for Alzheimer’s risk.
  • And here’s the kicker: they didn’t just collect this info and call it a day. Nope, they kept tabs on things for an average of 13 years. That’s some commitment! To make sure their findings were on point, they double-checked for any sneaky misleading connections that might throw things off track. Then they dove into the nitty-gritty, looking at how the age someone gets slapped with coronary artery disease might link up with getting hit by the dementia train later on.
  • They sliced and diced those 50,445 participants with coronary heart disease into three groups based on when it hit them – before 45, between 45 and 59, and the 60 and up crew. And guess what? They compared these groups with others who didn’t have this heart hiccup to suss out any possible link between that and the dementia rollercoaster.

In 2020, coronary heart disease led to 382,820 deaths, as per the 2023 Statistical Update from the American Heart Association. Looking at dementia, solely excluding Alzheimer’s, the estimated prevalence in U.S. adults aged 65 and above stood at 10.5% back in 2012. This intriguing study, the Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study, a supplement to the long-standing Health and Retirement Study in the U.S., disclosed a gender-specific breakdown: a 7.3% rate in males and a 12.9% rate in females.


The study faced certain limitations: Primarily, it was observational, meaning it didn’t solidify cause and effect. Another factor: over 94% of the UK Biobank participants self-identified as white. Consequently, the findings might not extend to other racial or ethnic groups.

Final Thoughts

To delve deeper into the link between dementia and coronary heart disease, get in touch with our renowned specialists at our cardiovascular center in Buckeye. Our experts are here to offer expert guidance and insights at Advancedcvcenter.com.


Jie Liang, Chenglong Li, Darui Gao, Qian Ma, Yongqian Wang, Yang Pan, Wenya Zhang, Wuxiang Xie, Fanfan Zheng. Association Between Onset Age of Coronary Heart Disease and Incident Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2023;

Click Here DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.123.031407