Carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive function in midlife: The beaver dam offspring study

Wenjun Zhong, Karen J. Cruickshanks, Guan Hua Huang, Barbara E.K. Klein, Ronald Klein, F. Javier Nieto, James S. Pankow, Carla R. Schubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Atherosclerosis may be associated with cognitive function; however the studies are few, especially among midlife adults. Methods: Participants in the beaver dam offspring study who had cognitive test data and gradable carotid artery ultrasound scans were included (n= 2794, mean age: 49 years). Atherosclerosis was measured by carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and the presence of plaque. Cognitive function was measured by the trail making test (TMT), grooved pegboard test (GPT) and mini-mental state examination (MMSE). Generalized cognitive function was defined by a summary score calculated from the TMT and GPT. Linear regression was used to evaluate the associations between carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive function tests. Results: Larger IMT was associated with lower GPT, MMSE and the summary score adjusting for multiple factors, the coefficients were: 13.8s (p< 0.0001), -0.6 (p= 0.007), and 0.47 (p= 0.01), respectively for 1. mm increase in IMT. Plaque scores were significantly associated with TMT-B, GPT, MMSE, and the summary score adjusting for age, sex and education. The associations remained statistically significant after further adjustments except for the association with TMT-B, which was attenuated and no longer significant. Conclusions: Our results show the significant associations between markers of carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive function in a cohort of persons aged 21-84 years. Longitudinal studies are needed to further examine these associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-333
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project described was supported by R01AG021917 from the National Institute on Aging, National Eye Institute , and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institute on Aging or the National Institutes of Health.


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cognitive function
  • Epidemiology


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