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Clarifying the relationship between depression symptoms and cardiometabolic and related health could clarify risk factors and treatment targets. The objective of this study was to assess whether depression symptoms in midlife are associated with the subsequent onset of cardiometabolic health problems.
The study sample comprised 787 male twin veterans with polygenic risk score data who participated in the Harvard Twin Study of Substance Abuse (‘baseline’) and the longitudinal Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (‘follow-up’). Depression symptoms were assessed at baseline [mean age 41.42 years (s.d. = 2.34)] using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, Version III, Revised. The onset of eight cardiometabolic conditions (atrial fibrillation, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, sleep apnea, and stroke) was assessed via self-reported doctor diagnosis at follow-up [mean age 67.59 years (s.d. = 2.41)].
Total depression symptoms were longitudinally associated with incident diabetes (OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.07–1.57), erectile dysfunction (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.10–1.59), hypercholesterolemia (OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.04–1.53), and sleep apnea (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.13–1.74) over 27 years after controlling for age, alcohol consumption, smoking, body mass index, C-reactive protein, and polygenic risk for specific health conditions. In sensitivity analyses that excluded somatic depression symptoms, only the association with sleep apnea remained significant (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.09–1.60).
A history of depression symptoms by early midlife is associated with an elevated risk for subsequent development of several self-reported health conditions. When isolated, non-somatic depression symptoms are associated with incident self-reported sleep apnea. Depression symptom history may be a predictor or marker of cardiometabolic risk over decades.
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with poorer cognitive function in older adults. Although understudied in middle-aged adults, the relationship between alcohol and cognition may also be influenced by genetics such as the apolipoprotein (ApoE) ε4 allele, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. We examined the relationship between alcohol consumption, ApoE genotype, and cognition in middle-aged adults and hypothesized that light and/or moderate drinkers (≤2 drinks per day) would show better cognitive performance than heavy drinkers or non-drinkers. Additionally, we hypothesized that the association between alcohol use and cognitive function would differ by ApoE genotype (ε4+ vs. ε4−).
Participants were 1266 men from the Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging (VETSA; M age = 56; range 51–60) who completed a neuropsychological battery assessing seven cognitive abilities: general cognitive ability (GCA), episodic memory, processing speed, executive function, abstract reasoning, verbal fluency, and visuospatial ability. Alcohol consumption was categorized into five groups: never, former, light, moderate, and heavy.
In fully adjusted models, there was no significant main effect of alcohol consumption on cognitive functions. However, there was a significant interaction between alcohol consumption and ApoE ε4 status for GCA and episodic memory, such that the relationship of alcohol consumption and cognition was stronger in ε4 carriers. The ε4+ heavy drinking subgroup had the poorest GCA and episodic memory.
Presence of the ε4 allele may increase vulnerability to the deleterious effects of heavy alcohol consumption. Beneficial effects of light or moderate alcohol consumption were not observed.
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