Tests that can predict heart disease and stroke could also foresee memory loss and risk of dementia, according to a new study.

"This is the first study that compares these risk scores with a dementia risk score to study decline in cognitive abilities 10 years later," Sara Kaffashian, one of the study authors and a researcher from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, INSERM, in Paris, France, said in a statement.

The participants, which included 7,830 men and women with an average age of 55, underwent a series of risk tests for heart disease, stroke, and dementia. They also had memory and thinking skills measured three times over the course of 10 years.

The heart disease risk scores evaluated risk factors such as age, anbnormal blood pressure, medicatiosn taken for high blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabete

Stroke risk scores included aspects such as history of heart disease and whether the individual had irregular heartbeats.

The dementia risk scores assessed the age, education, blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, amount of exercise and if the participant had a gene linked to dementia called APOE ε4 gene, or apolipoprotein E. According to the National Institute on Aging, the APOE ε4 gene is found in nearly 40 percent of all individuals who have late-onset of Alzheimer's disease. But this gene alone does not mean a person is certain of getting Alzheimer's.

"The findings also emphasize the importance of risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure in not only increasing risk of heart disease and stroke but also having a negative impact on cognitive abilities," Kaffashian said.

By compiling the three risk scores (heart disease, stroke, and dementia), a final score was derived. This final score was able to predict a decline of cognitive skills over 10 years. The heart and stroke risk factors specifically pointed to a stronger decline in all cognitive functions, except memory, while dementia risk factors were not associated with memory decline and loss of verbal functioning.

Previously, Kaffashian discovered high cholesterol and increased blood pressure was a predictor for developing early memory loss.

Looking ahead, this study could help physicians prevent the onset of cognitive function loss using cardiovascular risk scores because they already review these factors in patients.

The study will be published on April 2 in the journal Neurology.