Women with Cardio Issues Lead to Midlife Cognitive Decline

The decline in memory and cognitive skills can start in midlife for women with cardiovascular conditions and middle age risk factors. These individuals have a higher risk of needing long-term care and often wait until it is too late to seek Long-Term Care Insurance.

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Women with Cardio Issues Lead to Midlife Cognitive Decline
4 Min Read January 8th, 2022

Researchers from Mayo Clinic have shown an association with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol with declines in language scores in women. The decline in memory and thinking skills during midlife was more prevalent for women than for men. The research was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"It is well-known that men, compared to women, have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular conditions and risk factors in midlife. However, our study suggests that women in midlife with these conditions and risk factors are at greater risk of cognitive decline," says Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist and neuroscientist, and senior author of the study.

Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic’s Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D.

Women Should Get Additional Attention

Mielke says while everyone should be treated for cardiovascular conditions and risk factors in midlife, women should be carefully monitored to prevent a decline in cognitive ability. 

The Mayo Clinic studies 1,857 participants who did not have dementia at the time of their initial visit, ages 50 to 69. The group was about 50/50 men and women (920 were men, and 937 were women).

About 79% of the participants, or 1,465, had at least one cardiovascular risk factor or condition — 83% of men, compared to 75% of women. The participant's risk factors included high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity. The participants' conditions going into the study included coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease, and stroke. 

Every 15 months, each participant in the study was evaluated with nine tests of memory, language, executive function, and spatial skills. 

It is important to understand sex differences in the development of cognitive impairment to enhance the health of women and men, Dr. Mielke says. 

Additional Research Necessary

Middle-aged adults, especially women with a history of heart disease, may represent critical subgroups for early monitoring. Mielke says that additional research is needed across the life span to examine potential mechanisms explaining sex differences in the relationship between cardiovascular factors and cognition, such as hormones, genetics, lifestyle, and psychosocial factors.

Cognitive decline is one of the leading causes of long-term health care as individuals get older. Women tended to live longer and have higher rates of dementia and long-term care needs than men. Women tend to require care longer than men do as well. 

According to a Long-Term Care Insurance claim’s study, nearly two-thirds of benefits went to women. The study was conducted by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), national consumer education and advocacy group.

Long-Term Health Care Costs Rising

The costs of taking care of those with dementia and other health and aging issues are rising rapidly, causing tremendous strain on American families - and families worldwide. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows these costs also vary depending on where you live - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.

In the United States, health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, pays only for about 100 days of skilled long-term care services; however, most care is help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia and is not covered. Medicaid will pay for all types of long-term health care, but the care recipient must have little or no income and assets. 

LTC Insurance Helps if You Can Obtain Coverage Before Health Declines

In the United States, Long-Term Care Insurance is available and will pay for long-term care, including supervision due to cognitive decline, but policies cannot be purchased once a severe health problem exists. For the most part, people purchase Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s.

In other nations, national or private Long-Term Care Insurance exists, or there is a combination of public and private care.

While there is continuing research on dementia and Alzheimer's, longevity is still creating an increased need for long-term care services, and those costs place a financial strain on many families. 

Many families find themselves in a crisis forcing one of the adult children to become a caregiver despite being untrained and unprepared for the role. These family caregivers attempt to jiggle their jobs and families with their new role of caregiver, placing burden and anxiety on the caregiver and their family. 

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

People require long-term health care due to changes in their health, body, and mind. Whether you become ill, have mobility problems, or have other aging issues, being prepared will reduce the stress and anxiety placed on family members and give you peace of mind to enjoy your future retirement.

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