Is There an Association between Cardiovasular Disease & Executive Function in Those with Bipolar Disorder?

Research Paper Title

Cumulative Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Triglycerides Differentially Relate to Subdomains of Executive Function in Bipolar Disorder; preliminary findings.

Background

Cardiovascular disease is disproportionally prevalent in bipolar disorder (BD) and has been linked to cognition in preliminary studies. The researchers evaluate the association between known risk factors for cardiovascular disease and executive function in BD patients compared to healthy controls.

Methods

In a sample of n=57 individuals (n=23 BD, n=34 controls) they assessed two subdomains of executive function; cognitive flexibility (using the Trail Making Test – Part B) and cognitive inhibition (using the Stroop Colour Word Interference Task). Cardiovascular risk was assessed by means of serum triglyceride levels, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, as well as dietary saturated fat intake and a sex-specific cumulative cardiovascular risk score calculated using the Framingham Heart Study method.

Results

Patients with BD had higher BMI and waist circumference, with more BD patients categorised as having central obesity than controls. In the BD group only, higher triglyceride levels were associated with worse cognitive flexibility, and elevated cumulative cardiovascular disease risk was associated with worse cognitive inhibition. No correlations between cardiovascular risk factors and executive function were evident in the control group.

The study was limited by the small sample size and should be considered hypothesis-generating.

Conclusions

The associations between triglyceride levels, cumulative cardiovascular disease risk and executive functioning evident in BD in this study preliminarily indicate the potential for mechanistic overlap of physical health and cognitive function in the disorder.

Reference

Van Rheenen, T.E., McIntyre, R.S., Balanza-Martinez, V., Berk, M. & Rossell, S.L. (2020) Cumulative Cardiovascular Disease Risk and Triglycerides Differentially Relate to Subdomains of Executive Function in Bipolar Disorder; preliminary findings. Journal of Affective Disorders. 278, pp.556-562. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.09.104. Online ahead of print.

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