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Stroke Belt Birth State and Late-life Cognition in The Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR)

We examined the association of Stroke Belt birth state with late-life cognition in The Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR). STAR enrolled 764 Black Americans ages 50+ who were long-term Kaiser Permanente Northern California members. Participants completed Multiphasic Health Check-ups (MHC; 1964-1985) where early-life overweight/obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia were measured. At STAR (2018), birth state, self-reported early-life socioeconomic status (SES), and executive function, verbal episodic memory, and semantic memory scores were collected. We used linear regression to examine the association between Stroke Belt birth and late-life cognition adjusting for birth year, gender, and parental education. We evaluated early-life SES and cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) as potential mechanisms. Twenty-seven percent of participants were born in the Stroke Belt with a mean age of 69 (standard deviation = 9) at STAR. Stroke Belt birth was associated with worse late-life executive function (β [95% confidence interval]: -0.18 [-0.33, -0.02]) and semantic memory (-0.37 [-0.53, -0.21]), but not verbal episodic memory (-0.04 [-0.20, 0.12]). Adjustment for SES and CVRF attenuated associations of Stroke Belt birth with cognition (executive function [-0.05 {-0.25, 0.14}]; semantic memory [-0.28 {-0.49, -0.07}]). Black Americans born in the Stroke Belt had worse late-life cognition than those born elsewhere, underscoring the importance of early-life exposures on brain health.

Authors: George, Kristen M; Peterson, Rachel L; Gilsanz, Paola; Barnes, Lisa L; Mayeda, Elizabeth Rose; Glymour, M Maria; Mungas, Dan M; DeCarli, Charles S; Whitmer, Rachel A

Ann Epidemiol. 2021 12;64:26-32. Epub 2021-09-09.

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