Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Health, Human Performance and Recreation

Advisor/Mentor

Gray, Michelle

Committee Member/Reader

Howie, Erin

Committee Member/Second Reader

Ivey, Mack

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is currently affecting the lives of 5.8 million Americans and is expected to double within the next 30 years. With an aging populace of baby boomers, this will place great economic strain on the U.S. creating a burden of almost $1 trillion in healthcare costs. Currently, there is no cure for AD. However, studies report that many individuals with AD experience changes in the brain up to 10-15 years before the disease’s onset. It is imperative to detect future risk of developing AD or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) before significant cognitive changes arise. Many of the risk factors for AD are similar to those of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Thus, CVD risk factors will be targeted to identify if they show any correlation with diminished cognitive status. Participants in this study were women over the age of 40 who are at risk of developing MCI. Each subject reported to the Exercise Science Research Center to collect demographic information, perform a body composition, complete cognitive activities, and undergo an assessment determining their cardiovascular health status. In each of the cognitive assessments, a different aspect of cognition was evaluated, including working memory, episodic memory, language, attention, recognition, coordination, and visuospatial skills to give a measure of global cognition. Cardiovascular health status was assessed through self-reported questionnaires including CVD risk factors such as smoking, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, as well as with a procedure called Flow Mediated Dilation (FMD). FMD measures the change in the brachial artery diameter before and after a period of occlusion. The degree of arterial compliance is known to serve as an indicator of cardiovascular health. Pearson and Spearman’s correlation matrices were performed to examine any relationships between CVD risk and cognitive status. A one-way ANOVA was also completed to analyze if a difference in cognition existed between groups of increasing number of CVD risk factors. The results of these analyses showed no statistically significant relationships and only a few weak correlations, specifically between attention and increased CVD risk factors (r = -0.32). Cerebral hypoperfusion, common in heart failure and post-myocardial infarction patients, has resulted in lower attention scores, which could serve as a possible mechanism behind this correlation. The reduced strength in such correlations could be attributed to a homogenous study population, issues in software and technology, and poor data collection methods. Nonetheless, the results of this study still support the hypothesis that a relationship between CVD risk and cognitive decline exists in some capacity.

Keywords

Alzheimer's disease, Cardiovascular disease, lifestyle modification, risk factors, cognition, memory

Available for download on Tuesday, April 26, 2022

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