Mid-Life Cardiovascular Disease Prevention May Protect Against Later Dementia

Summary: Preventative strategies against atherosclerosis during mid-life can help decrease dementia risks associated with aging.

Source: American College of Cardiology

Employing cardiovascular disease prevention strategies in mid-life may delay or stop the brain alterations that can lead to dementia later in life, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Atherosclerosis, or buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on artery walls, is the underlying cause of most cardiovascular diseases, which is the leading cause of death around the world. Dementia is also among the top causes of death and disability around the world, with 50 million people currently living with dementia. The presence of atherosclerosis has been linked to cognitive impairment in advanced stages of the disease, but little is known about how they influence each other, especially since both can be asymptomatic for long periods of time earlier in life.

Using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography (PET) scans of 547 participants from the Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis study, researchers sought to determine the association between brain metabolism, subclinical atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk factors in asymptomatic, middle-aged adults.

This is a cartoon of a hand holding a scale with a heart and a brain on each side
The presence of atherosclerosis has been linked to cognitive impairment in advanced stages of the disease. Image is in the public domain

They found that cardiovascular risk is associated with brain hypometabolism, including the cerebral areas known to be affected in dementia. Hypertension was the modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factor with the strongest association.

According to researchers, these results underscore the need to control cardiovascular disease risk factors early in life to potentially reduce the brain’s later vulnerability to cognitive dysfunction.

About this neurology research news

Source: American College of Cardiology
Contact: Nicole Napoli – American College of Cardiology
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The study will appear in Journal of American College of Cardiology during the week of February 15 2021.

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  1. A build up of fats and cholesterol is not the major cause of heart disease or heart attacks. Otherwise, how do you explain people with low or normal cholesterol suffering heart disease and heart attacks? We need cholesterol as we age to help our blood flow smoothly through our arteries. When there is a blockage, new pathways are constructed by the dozens or hundreds that will keep blood flow at normal levels. These are collaterals which become the natural bypasses for any severe blockages. Most heart problems may be due to imbalances between SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) and PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) activities in the heart. Also, oxidative stress plays an important role in the function of the heart as NO (nitric oxide) is destroyed by stress and thus PNS will be affected. From numerous after death heart studies, in many cases it can be concluded that blockages occurred after thrombosis and were not necessarily the cause of it. The idea that cholesterol causes heart attacks is no longer valid…although statins stents, bypasses and other “heart attack” related procedures will never go away because of the lucrative revenues they provide the medical system. And there is no absolute proof that people live longer as the result of these drugs and procedures…other than they might live with less pain from heart difficulties.

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