Distinct components of cardiovascular health are linked with age-related differences in cognitive abilities


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Cardiovascular ageing contributes to cognitive impairment. However, the unique and synergistic contributions of multiple cardiovascular factors to cognitive function remain unclear because they are often condensed into a single composite score or examined in isolation. We hypothesized that vascular risk factors, electrocardiographic features and blood pressure indices reveal multiple latent vascular factors, with independent contributions to cognition. In a population-based deep-phenotyping study (n = 708, age 18–88), path analysis revealed three latent vascular factors dissociating the autonomic nervous system response from two components of blood pressure. These three factors made unique and additive contributions to the variability in crystallized and fluid intelligence. The discrepancy in fluid relative to crystallized intelligence, indicative of cognitive decline, was associated with a latent vascular factor predominantly expressing pulse pressure. This suggests that higher pulse pressure is associated with cognitive decline from expected performance. The effect was stronger in older adults. Controlling pulse pressure may help to preserve cognition, particularly in older adults. Our findings highlight the need to better understand the multifactorial nature of vascular aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number978
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


FundersFunder number
Wellcome Trust220258
Wellcome Trust
Medical Research CouncilSUAG/046 G101400
Medical Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research CouncilBB/H008217/1, BB/M011194/1
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
National Institute for Health and Care Research
Guarantors of BrainG101149
Guarantors of Brain
NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research CentreBRC-1215-20014
NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre


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