The Takeaway: Men At Higher Risk For Mild Memory Loss; Heart Health At 55 Predicts Death Risk At 80

Men More Likely To Suffer Mild Memory Loss: Bad news, guys-a new study says men are at a higher risk of developing mild memory loss (or ‘mild cognitive impairment,’ in technical parlance) than women. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a state that often-though not always-precedes dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

In the study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers looked at nearly 1,500 adults between the ages of 70 and 89. All were in good brain health when the study started. In the three-year period that followed, 296 participants became mildly cognitively impaired-including 7.2 percent of men. Only 5.7 percent of women developed MCI. The findings surprised researchers, because previous studies have shown women are more likely to develop dementia. Lead researcher Rosebud Roberts theorized that “women may develop risk factors for MCI at a later age, but the effects may be more severe … or they may progress to dementia without being diagnosed at the MCI stage.”

Participants who were unmarried or had less education were also more likely to become cognitively impaired.

Risk Of Cardiac Death Set At 55? A large new study suggests that your heart health in middle age is a good predictor of your lifetime heart disease and heart attack risk. Having two or more major risk factors-things like high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension or being a smoker-at 55 predicted a 29.6 percent chance of dying from heart disease for men by age 80, and 20.5 percent for women. For heart-healthy 55-year-olds, this risk was only 4.7 percent for men and 6.4 percent for women. Those in the low-risk group at 55 also had a much smaller chance of having a non-fatal heart attack: 3.6 percent vs. 37.5 percent for men, and less than 1 percent versus 18.3 percent for women.

Even mild elevations in risk factors by middle age seem to have profound effects on the remaining lifetime risks for (cardiovascular disease),” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, who led researchers in analyzing data from more than 250,000 patients across 18 longitudinal studies.

While most risk-assessment studies of this type consider only short-term risk-10 years max-Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues took a longer view, analyzing patients across a 50-year span.

So if you’re at high risk in middle-age, does that mean you should just throw in the proverbial towel and accept your fate? Of course not. Controlling or treating these risk factors as soon as you can will still make a difference for your long-term health, Lloyd-Jones said. But unfortunately, though it “mitigates the risk, it never really puts the horse back in the barn,” he added. “It’s important to get treated, but it’s better to have never developed these risk factors in the first place.”

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. Check out our 7 simple steps for improving your heart health.

Thursday Quick Hits

  • The stress of hiding their sexual orientation or feeling that others are uncomfortable with it jeopardizes the mental health of older gay men, according to a new study. But having a same-sex legal spouse can protect against this stress.
  • And is ‘grief’ a mental disorder? It could be classified as a form of depression under proposed changes to the psychiatric diagnosis ‘bible,’ the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders.
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