Type of Heart Disease Linked to Dementia

Artery plaque build up may lead to dementia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Dementia can be brought on by a number of risk factors. One of the most surprising that has recently been linked to the cognitive impairment, however, is a type of heart condition involving restricted arteries.

Altherosclerosis, the build up of plaques within arteries, can result in age-related dementia. The statement by the American Heart Association was published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure."

When blood flow to the brain is restricted, it can cause cerebrovascular disease, which can ultimately result in vascular cognitive impairment, also called dementia. Dementia often is brought on by Alzheimer's, vascular disease, or a combination of the two.

Dr. Philip B. Gorelick, co-chair of the writing group for the statement and director of the Center for Stroke Research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, said it was found that cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease may work together to cause cognitive impairment, and that the mixed disorder may be the most common in older individuals.

About 30 percent of those over the age of 80 have dementia. Lifestyle changes and medical management for risk factors of heart disease and stroke may help prevent or slow the development of dementia.

To maintain mental agility with age, participate in physical activity, maintain a healthy diet and an appropriate body weight and avoid tobacco. Blood pressure and cholesterol maintenance also may help keep individuals sharp.

Dr. Gorelick said that usually what is good for the heart is also healthy for the brain. He noted that there is not yet a definitive link that treating or preventing risk factors for heart disease will preserve cognitive function with age.

However, risk factors for stroke and vascular cognitive development are similar including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart rhythm abnormalities. Identifying those at risk may help doctors be able to postpone or prevent it, statement authors wrote.

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Review Date: 
July 21, 2011
Last Updated:
July 23, 2011