Vascular and metabolic risk factor differences prior to dementia diagnosis: a multidatabase case-control study using European electronic health records

Gayan Perera, P. R. Rijnbeek, Myriam Alexander, David Ansell, Paul Avillach, Talita Duarte-Salles, Mark Forrest Gordon, Francesco Lapi, Miguel Angel Mayer, Alessandro Pasqua, Lars Pedersen, Johan van der Lei, Pieter Jelle Visser, Robert Stewart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective The objective of the study is to compare body mass index (BMI), systolic/diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP) and serum total cholesterol levels between dementia cases and controls at multiple time intervals prior to dementia onset, and to test time interval as a modifying factor for these associations. Design Case-control study. Setting Six European electronic health records databases. Participants 291 780 cases at the date of first-recorded dementia diagnosis, compared with 29 170 549 controls randomly selected from the same databases, age matched and sex matched at this index date. Exposure The following measures were extracted whenever recorded within each dataset: BMI (kg/m(2)), SBP and DBP (mm Hg) and serum total cholesterol (mmol/L). Levels for each of these variables were defined within six 2-year time intervals over the 12 years prior to the index date. Main outcomes Case-control differences in exposures of interest were modelled for each time period and adjusted for demographic and clinical factors (ischaemic/unspecified stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, acute myocardial infarction, hypertension diagnosis, antihypertensive medication, cholesterol-lowering medication). Coefficients and interactions with time period were meta-analysed across the six databases. Results Mean BMI (coefficient -1.16 kg/m(2); 95% CI -1.38 to 0.93) and SBP (-2.83 mm Hg; 95% CI -4.49 to -1.16) were lower in cases at diagnosis, and case-control differences were greater in more recent time periods, as indicated by significant case-x-time interaction and case-x-time-squared interaction terms. Time variations in coefficients for cholesterol levels were less consistent between databases and those for DBP were largely not significant. Conclusion Routine clinical data show emerging divergence in levels of BMI and SBP prior to the diagnosis of dementia but less evidence for DBP or total cholesterol levels. These divergences should receive at least some consideration in routine dementia risk screening, although underlying mechanisms still require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number038753
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • dementia
  • epidemiology
  • health informatics
  • hypertension
  • mental health
  • physiology

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