April 15, 2011

Treating Heart Risks Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. However, treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other vascular risk factors may help lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease in people who already show signs of declining thinking skills or memory problems.

Researchers studied 837 people with mild cognitive impairment, the stage of memory loss that often leads to Alzheimer's disease. Of this group, 414 had at least one vascular risk factor. Participants were given blood tests and a medical history feedback form and moreover underwent further tests that calculated blood pressure, body mass, memory and thinking skills.

Participants with vascular risk factors were placed into three groups: those with no risk factors treated, those with some risk factors treated and those with all risk factors treated.

Treatment of risk factors included using high blood pressure medicines, insulin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and diet control. Smoking and drinking were considered treated if the person stopped smoking or drinking at the start of the study.

After five years, 298 people developed Alzheimer's disease. The others still experienced mild cognitive impairment. People with risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease and high cholesterol were two-times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those devoid of vascular risk factors. A total of 52 percent of those with risk factors developed Alzheimer's disease compared to 36 percent of those with no risk factors.

Of those with vascular risk factors, people who were receiving full treatment were 39-percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those receiving no treatment. Those receiving some treatments were 26-percent less likely to develop the disease compared to people who did not receive any treatment.

"Although this was not a controlled trial, patients who were treated for their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes had less progression of their memory or thinking impairment and were less likely to develop dementia," study author Yan-Jiang Wang, M.D., Ph.D., with the Third Military Medical University in Chongqing, China, was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Neurology, April 13, 2011