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New Study Shows Link between Blood Vessel Disease and Alzheimer’s

Study Suggests Possibility of New Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s disease

Though not definitive, a new study recently published in The Lancet Neurology, offers some hope that we might have another tool in our efforts to prevent or diminish the impact of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study, conducted at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, involved analysis of data from post-mortem examinations of the brain cells of 1,143 individuals. The analysis found a link between blood vessel disease and Alzheimer’s, specifically atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. The study’s authors stress that at this point, they can only state that there is a link but not the nature of it. For this, more research is needed. Nevertheless, the findings do open up the possibilities of new prevention strategies.

 Alzheimer's disease

Atherosclerosis is when layers of fat enter the vessels, causing a build-up of plaque. Arteriosclerosis is a thickening of the blood vessels. Both are referred to as cardiovascular disease. We have known that stroke is a causative factor in developing dementia but a possible link between blood vessel disease and Alzheimer’s has not been researched. The Chicago study titled, “Relation of Cerebral Vessel Disease to Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia and Cognitive Function in Elderly People; a Cross-sectional Study,” implies that there is such a link.

Scientists examined the brain autopsy data for indicators of Alzheimer’s and of blood vessel disease in the brain. Of the 1,143 deceased individuals, half were over the age of 88 when they died, 42 percent had Alzheimer’s, 35 percent were stricken with arteriosclerosis and 39 percent with atherosclerosis. The research showed that as blood vessel disease worsened, the risk of Alzheimer’s rose. Scientists also found that patients with atherosclerosis demonstrated more severe cognitive dysfunction, especially in the areas of visuospatial abilities, semantic and episodic memory and speed of perception. The presence of APOE ε4, a gene known to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, was not compromised in the study.

Clearly, this is a very good beginning and with more research into how blood vessel disease is contributing to Alzheimer’s, we may have yet another way to identify patients at risk and be able to implement earlier and more effective treatment strategies.