BACKGROUND: Older people's deficits in executive functions (EF) have been shown to lead to higher fall risk, postural sway, and reduced speed. Crucially, EF impairments are even more pronounced in individuals with chronic cerebrovascular disease (CVD), namely vascular cognitive impairment.
METHODS: In this retrospective cross-sectional study, we used a complete neuropsychological battery, including the Trail Making Test (TMT) and physical measures, such as the Morse fall and EQUI scales, to assess 66 individuals with chronic CVD. Linear regressions, Bayesian analyses, and model selection were performed to see the impact of EF, global cognition, and vascular parkinsonism/hemiplegia on physical measures (fall risk and balance).
RESULTS: The TMT part B and BA correlated (r = 0.44 and r = 0.45) with Morse fall scale. Only EF significantly explained fall risk, whereas global cognition and vascular parkinsonism/hemiplegia did not. These findings were confirmed by Bayesian evidence and parsimony model selection. Balance was not significantly correlated with any of the neuropsychological tests.
CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study investigating the relationship between cognitive and physical measures in a sample of older people with chronic CVD. The results are consistent with previous findings that link EF with fall risk in CVD.