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Keywords:

  • lung function;
  • cognition;
  • cognitive decline;
  • epidemiology;
  • aging

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1, a measure of overall lung function), long-term average FEV1, and rate of decline in FEV1 in relation to cognition and cognitive decline in older men.

DESIGN: Prospective observational study.

SETTING: Community-based population.

PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred sixty-four older men from the Normative Aging Study.

MEASUREMENTS: Starting in 1984, participants underwent triennial clinical evaluations. Lung function assessments provided estimates of FEV1. Cognitive assessments entailing tests of several cognitive abilities began in 1993. FEV1 measured approximately 12 years before baseline cognitive testing, average FEV1 over the 12-year period, and rate of change in FEV1 were all evaluated in relation to baseline and change in performance on the cognitive tests.

RESULTS: In multivariable-adjusted analyses, associations between FEV1 and baseline cognitive scores were mixed, although average FEV1 predicted significantly better performance on tests of visuospatial ability (P=.04) and general cognition (P=.03). Higher FEV1 was more consistently associated with slower cognitive decline, but only the association between historical FEV1 and attention was significant (difference per standard deviation in FEV1=0.056, P=.05). Rate of FEV1 decline was not consistently associated with cognitive function or decline. Findings were generally similar or stronger in men who had never smoked. To account for potential bias due to selective attrition, inverse probability of censoring weights were applied to the cognitive decline analyses, yielding slightly larger estimates; the inadequate prognostic power of the censoring models limited this approach.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the data provide limited evidence of an inverse association between FEV1 and cognitive aging.