March 17, 2009

Diabetes may hasten Alzheimer’s decline

Alzheimer's patients who have diabetes and elevated levels of cholesterol experience faster cognitive decline, U.S. researchers said.

These findings indicate that controlling vascular conditions may be one way to delay the course of Alzheimer's, which would be a major development in the treatment of this devastating disease as currently there are few treatments available to slow its progression, senior author Yaakov Stern of the Columbia University Medical Center, and senior author of the paper.

Preventing heart disease, stroke and diabetes -- or making sure these conditions are well managed in patients diagnosed with them -- can potentially slow the disease progression of Alzheimer's.

The study, published in the journal Archives of Neurology, found that a history of diabetes and higher cholesterol levels was associated with faster cognitive decline.

Stern and the research team theorize that the link between vascular risk factors and faster cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer's disease may occur because vascular diseases may increase oxidative stress or activate inflammation in the brain, thereby triggering the production of amyloid, and/or triggering the formation of neuron tangles, which are believed to be a primary cause of Alzheimer's disease.