Cerebrovascular disease linked to Alzheimer's

Posted on July 4, 2016

The study by researchers from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center analyzed medical and pathologic data on 1,143 older individuals who had donated their brains for research upon their deaths, including 478 (42 percent) with Alzheimer's disease dementia. Analyses of the brains showed that 445 (39 percent) of study participants had moderate to severe atherosclerosis -- plaques in the larger arteries at the base of the brain obstructing blood flow -- and 401 (35 percent) had brain arteriolosclerosis -- in which there is stiffening or hardening of the smaller artery walls.

The study found that the worse the brain vessel diseases, the higher the chance of having dementia, which is usually attributed to Alzheimer's disease. The increase was 20 to 30 percent for each level of worsening severity. The study also found that atherosclerosis and arteriolosclerosis are associated with lower levels of thinking abilities, including in memory and other thinking skills, and these associations were present in persons with and without dementia.

"Both large and small vessel diseases have effects on dementia and thinking abilities, independently of one another, and independently of the common causes of dementia such as Alzheimer's pathology and strokes," said Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis.

The study examined which cognitive difficulties are caused by vessel diseases and whether vessel disease and Alzheimer's are more destructive in tandem than they would be alone. An editorial in The Lancet Neurology that accompanied the study findings noted that while other studies have indicated that proactive measures like eating a selective diet and getting regular exercise might protect people against getting Alzheimer's, those interventions might actually be acting on non-Alzheimer's disease processes, such as cerebrovascular disease.

Arvanitakis says they don't know yet. "They may decrease actual Alzheimer's, and possibly even work by yet other pathways," Arvanitakis said. "We hope to better distinguish how the clinical expression of vessel diseases in the brain differ from those of Alzheimer's, so that we may eventually use earlier and more targeted treatments for dementia."

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Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues, Dementia

Source material from ScienceDaily


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