A new study published recently in the journal Journal of American Medical Association stated that midlife vascular disease could lead to Alzheimer’s disease in later life. Researchers analyzed data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities PET Amyloid Imaging study and found that people with a higher risk for vascular disease were linked to the buildup of amyloid plaques, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, as previous studies have shown. Rebecca Gottesman, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted the study.
Amyloid is a type of protein that clumps together, forming plaques in the brain. For people with Alzheimer’s disease amyloids can be found in large numbers in their brains. Gottesman and her team of researchers conducted MRI scans in the brains of seniors who smoked, had high blood pressure, were obese, and had high cholesterol levels. In the scans, large deposits of amyloids were discovered.
Speaking to Medpage Today, Gottesman said that her researchers “didn’t find an association with these specific risk factors simply due to not having enough power, or a large enough sample size.” Prevention, earlier in life, may be able to slow or stop Alzheimer’s in later life. The researchers examined just over 300 patients from Maryland, North Carolina, and Mississippi. Upon enrollment in the 1980s, the participants did not have dementia. The researchers discovered that people with elevated BMI in midlife had “elevated brain amyloid” deposits in later life. The average age of the study participants, at the beginning of the survey, was 52 years old. The researchers followed-up with members nearly a quarter of a century later.
CBS News reported that risk factors “nearly tripled” a person’s chances of having amyloid deposits, leading to Alzheimer’s. Obesity was one of the strongest risk factors found in the study. Amyloids is contained in blood and spinal fluid, which may allow the sticky protein to “leak” from the bloodstream and “into brain tissue. The buildup of amyloids in the brain can harden arteries and lead to strokes.
The researchers suggested to the general public to start taking care of themselves now when they are younger instead of suffering the consequences later. Gottesman and her researchers speaking to Science Daily said that the “data support the concept that…vascular risk factors is important for amyloid deposition.” Gottesman went on to say that vascular disease played a role in the “development of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Alzheimer’s Association