Cognitive impairment and mortality in a cohort of elderly people.
Gale CR., Martyn CN., Cooper C.
To investigate the relation between cognitive function and cause specific mortality in people aged 65 and over. DESIGN-A 20 year follow up study of a cohort of randomly selected elderly people living in the community who in 1973-4 had taken part in a nutritional survey funded by the Department of Health and Social Security.Eight areas in Britain (five in England, two in Scotland, and one in Wales).921 men and women whose cognitive function was assessed by a geriatrician in 1973-4 and for whom data on health, socioeconomic circumstances, and diet had been recorded.Cognitive impairment was associated with increased mortality, in particular death from ischaemic stroke. Those who scored 7 or less on the Hodkinson mental test had a relative risk of dying from stroke of 2.8 (95% confidence interval 1.4 to 5.5), compared with those who gained the maximum score (10), after adjustment for age, sex, blood pressure, serum cholesterol concentration, and vitamin C intake. These associations were independent of illness or social class. At the time of the nutritional survey, cognitive function was poorest in those with the lowest vitamin C status, whether measured by dietary intake or plasma ascorbic acid concentration. The relation between vitamin C status and cognitive function was independent of age, illness, social class, or other dietary variables.The relation between cognitive function and risk of death from stroke suggests that cerebrovascular disease is an important cause of declining cognitive function. Vitamin C status may be a determinant of cognitive function in elderly people through its effect on atherogenesis. A high vitamin C intake may protect against both cognitive impairment and cerebrovascular disease.