Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine
Online ISSN : 1347-4715
Print ISSN : 1342-078X
ISSN-L : 1342-078X
Associations between pulmonary function and cognitive decline in the middle-aged and older adults: evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study
Xuefeng LaiJian SunBingjie HeDaowei LiShengfeng Wang Siyan Zhan
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2022 Volume 27 Pages 48


Background: Studies observing the relationship between pulmonary function and the risk of cognitive impairment in middle-aged and older adults was increasing, but the results were inconsistent. To date, evidence from longitudinal data is scarce and further research is urgently needed.

Methods: We used data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Participants were enrolled in 2011/2013 and followed up in 2013, 2015 and 2018. Pulmonary function was assessed via peak expiratory flow (PEF). Cognitive function, measured by episodic memory and mental status, was assessed through a face-to-face interview in each survey.

Results: A total of 8,274 participants (52.86% males; mean age, 56.44 years) were included. The scores of global cognition (12.46 versus 11.51, P < 0.001) of men were significantly higher than women at baseline, with a total of 5096 participants (61.59%) declining during the follow-up. Higher baseline PEF was associated with lower absolute decline in global cognition (OR per 1-SD difference 0.921; P = 0.031) and mental status (OR per 1-SD difference 0.9889; P = 0.002) during follow-up in men, and significant associations between higher baseline PEF and a lower absolute decline in the episodic memory were both found in men (OR per 1-SD difference 0.907; P = 0.006) and women (OR per 1-SD difference 0.915; P = 0.022). Second analysis showed that the significant associations between positive PEF variation and a lower rate of 4-year decline in global cognition, mental status and episodic memory were all only found in men. In subgroup analyses, higher PEF at baseline was significantly associated with a lower absolute decline of global cognition among male individuals >60 years. Significant associations between higher PEF at baseline and lower absolute decline in global cognition and episodic memory during follow-up were only found in never-smokers, while higher PEF was related to lower absolute decline in mental status among non-smoking and smoking males.

Conclusions: Pulmonary function correlates with cognitive functions in middle-aged and older people, especially males. Additional studies characterizing early and long-term PEF changes are needed.

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