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Having multiple conditions that affect the heart are linked to a greater risk of dementia than having high genetic risk, according to a largescale new study co-led by the University of Oxford.

Illustration showing neuroscientists holding icons of a heart and brain.

Conducted in collaboration with the University of Exeter, the study is among the largest ever to examine the link between several heart-related conditions and dementia, and one of the few to look at the complex issue of multiple health conditions.

Published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity, the paper looked at data from more than 200,000 people, aged 60 or above, and of European ancestry in UK Biobank. The international research team identified those who had been diagnosed with the cardiometabolic conditions diabetes, stroke, or a heart attack, or any combination of the three, and those who went on to develop dementia.

Within this study population, the researchers found that the more of these three conditions a person had, the higher their risk of dementia. People who had all three conditions were three times more likely to develop dementia than people who had a high genetic risk.

Dr Xin You Tai, Lead Author and Doctoral Student at University of Oxford, said: 'Dementia is a major global issue, with predictions that 135 million worldwide will have the devastating condition by 2050. We found that having such heart-related conditions is linked to dementia risk to a greater extent than genetic risk. So whatever genetic risk you were born with, you can potentially make a big impact on reducing risk of dementia by looking after heart and metabolic health throughout life.'

The team, which included the universities of Glasgow and Michigan, found that nearly 20,000 of the UK Biobank participants they studied had been diagnosed with one of the three conditions. Just over 2,000 had two conditions, and 122 had all three.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website.

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