An Australian scientist will undertake a four-year study investigating the link between heart disease and dementia, it was announced on Friday.
Hannah Keage, a researcher at the University of South Australia's Cognitive and Impairment Neurosciences (CAIN) lab, will study how heart disease impacts the cognitive abilities of the elderly.
Keage said that people undergoing surgery for heart disease typically had a high risk of developing dementia due to histories of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
"Heart surgery is an additional risk factor for cognitive decline, and we will be looking at intervention strategies to help arrest that after surgery," Keage said in a media release on Friday.
"We are going to undertake experiments in Adelaide hospitals to increase older patients' cognitive function after cardiovascular surgery and also try to develop tools where we can identify people at a higher risk of delirium, which often accelerates dementia onset."
Strategies to slow the onset of delirium exist but are expensive for patients so identifying those most at risk is a key step for doctors.
Tobias Loetscher, a fellow CAIN member, will simultaneously conduct research on visual problems encountered by dementia patients.
"More than half of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease are affected by visual impairments, particularly perceiving contrasts, depth and also motion," Loetscher said.
"These visual problems may appear before signs of memory loss, so part of my research will involve recruiting older people and assessing their eye movements and cognitive function over a period of a few years to see if certain visual abnormalities predict the development and progression of cognitive impairments."
Loetscher said that he will investigate environmental changes that can be made to accommodate dementia sufferers with visual problems.
"Simple things like ensuring there are clear contrasts between the colors of walls and doors so they can find their way around, and also making sure that dinner plates are contrasted with table cloths," he said.