A recent study found a link between vascular disease in the brain and higher risk of having dementia. Researchers said that the risk is consistent in diseases affecting both small and large blood vessels.
Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, lead author of the study and neurologist with Chicago-based Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, explained that conditions that affect blood vessels in the brain have an independent impact on cognitive function and dementia. Vascular disease’s impact on dementia was not influenced by Alzheimer’s pathology or stroke risk, researchers explained.
Furthermore, the analysis showed that the higher the severity of the vascular disease the more increased risk of being affected by dementia was. For each level of severity, the risk skyrocketed by up to 30 percent.
According to a recent report, about 47 million patients live with dementia worldwide. Researchers expect the figure to surge to 132 million by 2050. So, finding new methods to detect the condition in time and treat it “is a major goal,” as researchers put it.
In the analysis, scientists sifted through medical data on more than 1,000 seniors of age 65 or older. The data was gathered from two large studies: the Rush Memory and Aging Project and Religious Orders Study.
All participants agreed to undergo brain scans on a yearly basis and donate their brains to science after their deaths.
About 42 percent of study participants were eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brain scans showed that 39 percent of participants had a form of atherosclerosis, a disease that affects larger blood vessels within the brain which can get obstructed by plaques. Thirty-five percent were diagnosed with arteriolosclerosis, a condition that affects smaller arteries in the brain.
The study revealed that both types of vascular disease impaired cognitive function including memory and the ability to make associations. These symptoms are also present in Alzheimer’s disease, and in its worse form, dementia.
Study authors acknowledged that they did not find a cause-and-effect relationship between the said vascular disease and dementia risk, but they did find a link which suggests that the disease does play a role in dementia.
Researchers also noted that in people aged 65 or older blood vessel conditions that affect the brain are relatively common. Plus, in many cases the conditions are associated with dementia, which is traditionally linked to Alzheimer’s.
The study was published in the British medical journal Lancet Neurology.
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