BACKGROUND: Risk factors for cognitive decline might depend on chronological age. The aim of the study was to explore the age dependency of risk factors for cognitive decline in cognitively healthy subjects aged 55-85 years at baseline.
METHODS: We included 2527 cognitively healthy subjects from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA). Median follow-up was 9.1 (IQR: 3.2-19.0) years. The association of genetic and cardiovascular risk factors, depressive symptoms, inflammation markers and lifestyle risk factors with decline in MMSE and memory function was tested using spline regression analyses.
RESULTS: Subjects were on average 70.1 (SD 8.8) years old at baseline. Based on a spline regression model, we divided our sample in three age groups: ≤70 years (young-old), > 70-80 years (old) and > 80 years (oldest-old). The association of LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, hypertension, history of stroke, depressive symptoms, interleukin-6, a1-antichymotrypsin, alcohol use and smoking with cognitive decline significantly differed between the age groups. In general, the presence of these risk factors was associated with less cognitive decline in the oldest-old group compared to the young-old and old group.
CONCLUSIONS: The negative effect of various risk factors on cognitive decline decreases with higher age. A combination of epidemiological factors, such as the selection towards healthier subjects during follow-up, but also risk factor specific features, for example ensuring the cerebral blood flow in case of hypertension, explain this diminished association at higher age. It is important to take these age differences into account when applying preventive strategies to avert cognitive decline.