Subjective Memory Complaints and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: a Cross-sectional Study of the HABS-HD Cohort

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Background: Subjective memory complaints (SMC) are considered as subjects' interpretation of their cognitive aspects, such as memory and perception. Cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) such as hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and obesity may contribute to cognitive decline and their relationship with dementia has been documented extensively. However, there is a lack of literature on the relationship between CVRFs and SMC. Depression has been linked to cardiovascular disease and it is strongly associated with SMC, so it is important to consider the contribution of CVRFs and depression as potentially modifiable factors of SMC. This study examined the factors associated with SMC in community-dwelling older Mexican Americans (MA) and non - Hispanic Whites (NHW). We hypothesized that CVRFs will be associated with SMC, and that the association will be independent of depression. 

Methods: We studied 1,376 cognitively normal participants from the Health and Aging Brain Study (HABS - HD). Baseline characteristics were analyzed using t and chi square tests. The presence of SMC was ascertained by the Subjective Memory Complaints Questionnaire (SCMQ), and a logistic regression was conducted.

Results: MA with SMC had a higher prevalence of dyslipidemia (p=0.008), and depression (p< 0.0001) than those without SMC. NHW with SMC were less educated than those without SMC (mean education years 15.26 vs 15.83) and have a higher prevalence of diabetes (p=0.04) and depression (p< 0.0001). MA with SMC had a higher prevalence of diabetes (p< 0.0001) and obesity (p=0.0001) when compared with NHW with SMC. Depression was strongly associated with SMC in MA (OR 3.46; 95% CI = 2.45 – 4.89) and NHW (OR 2.22; 95% CI = 1.59 – 3.10). Dyslipidemia was also associated with SMC in MA (OR 1.73; 95% CI = 1.25 – 2.40). 

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the association of CVRF and SMC differs among MA and NHW. Depression was strongly associated with SMC in both groups; in MA, dyslipidemia was also associated with SMC in MA. The complex relationship between memory complains, vascular risk factors, and depression requires longitudinal studies for further clarification. Understanding SMC and its racial differences may allow early interventions to prevent cognitive decline.

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