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DOI: 10.1186/s11689-023-09510-z


INTRODUCTION: Evidence in the general population suggests that predictors of cardiovascular health such as moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), cardiorespiratory fitness, and systolic blood pressure are associated with cognitive function. Studies supporting these associations in adults with Down syndrome (DS) are limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between systolic blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness, and MVPA on cognition in adults with DS.

METHODS: This is a cross-sectional analysis using baseline data from a trial in adults with DS. Participants attended a laboratory visit where resting blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2 Peak), and cognitive function (CANTAB® DS Battery) were obtained. The cognitive battery included tests measuring multitasking, episodic memory, and reaction time. Physical activity (accelerometer) was collected over the week following the laboratory visit. Pearson correlations and linear regressions were used to measure the impact of systolic blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness, and MVPA on cognitive outcomes.

RESULTS: Complete data was available for 72 adults with DS (26.8 ± 9.3 years of age, 57% female). At baseline, VO2 Peak (21.1 ± 4.2 ml/kg/min) and MVPA were low (14.4 ± 14.4 min/day), and systolic blood pressure was 118.3 ± 13.3 mmHg. VO2 Peak was correlated with simple movement time (rho = - 0.28, p = 0.03) but was not significant using a linear regression controlling for age and sex. Systolic blood pressure was significantly associated with episodic memory (first attempt memory score: β = - 0.11, p = 0.002; total errors: β = 0.58, p = 0.001) and reaction time (five-choice movement time: β = 4.11, p = 0.03; simple movement time: β = 6.14, p = 0.005) using age- and sex-adjusted linear regressions. No associations were observed between MVPA and multitasking, episodic memory, or reaction time.

CONCLUSION: Predictors of cardiovascular health, including cardiorespiratory fitness and systolic blood pressure, were associated with some aspects of cognition in adults with DS. While future research should examine the role of improved cardiovascular health on delaying decreases in cognitive function and dementia in adults with DS, we recommend that health care providers convey the importance of exercise and cardiovascular health to their patients with DS.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT04048759, registered on August 7, 2019.

Journal Title

J Neurodev Disord





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Alzheimer’s disease; Blood pressure; Cognition; Dementia; Down syndrome; Exercise; Fitness; Intellectual disabilities; Physical activity


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