Treating cerebrovascular disease may help prevent Alzheimer’s
According to a study recently published in Brain, one of the causes that contributes to the onset of dementia is cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow in the brain. This is the first study that compares the presence of cerebrovascular disease in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers believe that people who already suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases affecting memory may benefit from current treatment recommended for vascular problems. Therefore, the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol along with a healthy lifestyle (sport, diet) could prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
According to researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, compared with other neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, frontotemporal lobar degeneration), Alzheimer’s disease had the strongest association with cerebrovascular disease. Senior author John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute on Aging-Funded Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said that although it was known that vascular disease contributes to neurological disease, though it is first study to compare the burden of neurodegenerative diseases across vascular disease with multiple and distinct origins.
To conduct the study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have investigated 5715 cases from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) database. They have found more than 4600 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and what is interesting is that almost 80% of them had vascular disease (of varying degrees). There were considered as having vascular disease those who had blocked or hardened blood vessels or dead tissue due to ischemia (cessation of blood flow). Compared to the 80% who had vascular disease, in the control group only 33% of participants had vascular pathology; a similar percentage was found in participants with Parkinson’s disease (only 34% had vascular disease).
Lead study author Jon B. Toledo, MD, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said that in the absence of any therapies that could change the course of Alzheimer’s disease, they hope that the current treatment for vascular diseases could help patients with Alzheimer’s. He also said that implementing campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles among youth and middle-aged people can have a positive impact and reduce or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that affects more than 5 million Americans. Once started, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be stopped. Until now there has not been found a drug to cure Alzheimer’s, but there are therapies available that help relieve symptoms.