New Study Links Heart Health With Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
Adding further evidence to the notion that your heart health is essential in preserving mental health, a new study says that heart disease increases the odds of developing dementia.
Researchers led by Timothy Hughes, from the department of internal medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. report that artery stiffness – known as atherosclerosis – is associated with the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques are considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is more than just another example of how heart health relates to brain health. It is a signal that the process of vascular aging may predispose the brain to increased amyloid plaque buildup,” Hughes said.
As we age, plaques build up in the brain and appear to accumulate in larger numbers in those with stiffer arteries. He added, “Finding and preventing the causes of plaque buildup is going to be an essential factor in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and extending brain health throughout life.”
For the study, published March 31 in the online edition of JAMA Neurology, the team looked at brain images and arterial health of 81 patients 83-years-old and over. The plaque levels of the participants were assessed using PET scans, then the stiffness of arteries was evaluated by determining the speed that blood moves through them.
Over two years, the percentage of patients with plaque in their brain increased from 48 percent to 75 percent. Most importantly, the increase in plaque buildup could be correlated with increased stiffness of arteries.
This study is just the beginning, and further testing will have to be done with larger sample sizes to support the results found by Hughes and his team, but it is already widely believe that heart health and brain health are closely related. It is only a matter of time until we find out just how closely connected they are.