Are Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s Related?

Photo of old man with alzheimers heart disease link LocateADocHeart problems may be only one result of plaque buildup in arteries. A new study shows the same arterial stiffness, officially called atherosclerosis, may result in brain-related conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe that it’s only a matter of time before this correlation between heart disease and brain disease is commonly recognized by cardiologists, neurologists, and other physicians.

A recent study, published in the March 31st edition of JAMA Neurology, compared a series of brain images and the arterial health of several dementia-free patients who were 83 years of age or older. The PET scans showed the plaque buildup in the brain. Two years of monitoring revealed that plaque buildup increased from 48% to 75%. As the plaque continued to increase, the arteries became stiffer.

Scientists are now trying to determine how much this extra buildup affects the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease in elderly patients. This condition is the most common form of dementia diagnosed in elderly adults. The disease affects memory, thinking, and the ability to effectively complete normal daily activities.

Those in the medical field recognize that factors such as diet, exercise, stress level, and weight play a significant role in heart health. Things like maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart. Perhaps the same measures could be used to prevent or delay the onset of brain-related conditions also.

If you have additional questions regarding heart disease and alzheimers, ask our network of doctors and specialists with our Ask A Doc feature.

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