Telomere length and cognitive function in community-dwelling elders: Findings from the Health ABC Study

Kristine Yaffe, Karla Lindquist, Molly Kluse, Richard Cawthon, Tamara Harris, Wen Chi Hsueh, Eleanor M. Simonsick, Lewis Kuller, Rongling Li, Hilsa N. Ayonayon, Susan M. Rubin, Steven R. Cummings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Telomere shortening is a marker of cellular aging and has been associated with risk of Alzheimer's disease. Few studies have determined if telomere length is associated with cognitive decline in non-demented elders. We prospectively studied 2734 non-demented elders (mean age: 74 years). We measured cognition with the Modified Mini-Mental State Exam (3MS) and Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) repeatedly over 7 years. Baseline telomere length was measured in blood leukocytes and classified by tertile as "short", "medium", or "long". At baseline, longer telomere length was associated with better DSST score (36.4, 34.9 and 34.4 points for long, medium and short, p<0.01) but not for change in score. However, 7-year 3MS change scores were less among those with longer telomere length (-1.7 points vs. -2.5 and -2.9, p=0.01). Findings were similar after multivariable adjustment for age, gender, race, education, assay batch, and baseline score. There was a borderline statistically significant interaction for telomere length and APOE e4 on 3MS change score (p=0.06). Thus, telomere length may serve as a biomarker for cognitive aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2055-2060
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomarker
  • Cognitive decline
  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics
  • Telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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