Chronotropic Response and Cognitive Function in a Cohort at Risk for Alzheimer's Disease

Law LL, Schultz SA, Boots EA, Einerson JA, Dougherty RJ, Oh JM, Korcarz CE, Edwards DF, Koscik RL, Dowling NM, Gallagher CL, Bendlin BB, Carlsson CM, Asthana S, Hermann BP, Sager MA, Johnson SC, Cook DB, Stein JH, Okonkwo OC.

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016 Dec 1. [Epub ahead of print]


The objective of this study was to examine the association of chronotropic response (CR) and heart rate (HR) recovery- two indices of cardiovascular function within the context of a graded exercise test- with cognitive performance in a cognitively healthy, late-middle-aged cohort at risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Ninety participants (age = 63.52±5.86 years; 65.6% female) from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention participated in this study. They underwent graded exercise testing and a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment that assessed the following four cognitive domains: Immediate Memory, Verbal & Learning Memory, Working Memory, and Speed & Flexibility. Regression analyses, adjusted for age, sex, and education, were used to examine the association between CR, HR recovery, and cognition. We found significant associations between CR and cognitive performance in the domains of Immediate Memory, Verbal Learning & Memory, and Speed & Flexibility. In contrast, HR recovery was not significantly associated with cognitive function. The association between CR and cognition persisted even after controlling for HR recovery. Together, these findings indicatethat, in a cognitively normal, late-middle-aged cohort, CR is a stronger correlate of cognitive performance than HR recovery. Overall, this study reinforces the idea that cardiovascular health plays an important role in cognitive function, specifically in a cohort at risk for AD; and that interventions that promote vascular health may be a viable pathway to preventing or slowing cognitive decline due to AD.

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