Good Heart Health May Protect Against Cognitive Decline in Black Women

Finding seen for processing speed and cardiovascular health in Black women, but not White women
Good Heart Health May Protect Against Cognitive Decline in Black Women
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, April 24, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Middle-aged Black women with better heart health are less likely to show a decline in mental function, according to a study published online April 24 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Imke Janssen, Ph.D., from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues sought to determine the impact of cardiovascular health (CVH) on decline in the two domains of cognition that decline first in White and Black women at midlife. The analysis included 363 Black and 402 White women participating in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Cognition was measured as processing speed and working memory.

After a mean follow-up of ~10 years, the researchers observed a decline in processing speed that was explained by race, age, and the three-way interaction of race, CVH, and time. In White women, CVH was unrelated to decline, but in Black women poorer CVH was associated with greater decline. No declines in working memory were seen in the total cohort, by race, or by CVH.

"We were surprised that we did not find results like those of past studies, which showed cognitive decline in Black and White men and women, and found cardiovascular health to be more important for White adults rather than people in Black subgroups," Janssen said in a statement. "We think these differences are due to the younger age of our participants, who began cognitive testing in their mid-40s, whereas previous studies started with adults about 10 to 20 years older."

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