Connecting Alzheimer's Disease to Vascular Disease
An extensive, intricate system of arteries and smaller capillaries brings a constant flow of oxygen and nutrients to every neuron in the brain. Consider that although the brain comprises only two percent of the body's mass, it uses 20 percent of the body's blood supply! The brain's vascular system is 400 miles long, with 400 billion capillaries. It is vital for brain health that these channels remain open.
Vascular conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes can damage and block the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Vascular dementia, widely considered the second-most common type of dementia, can result when massive strokes, or a series of small strokes, damage the brain. In addition, there may also be an association between vascular disease and AD.
Possible connections have been examined over time in population studies. Scientists also have conducted many studies in animals to confirm the associations and tease out their possible causes. Clinical trials are now underway in humans to test whether actions that reduce vascular disease risk factors may also reduce AD risk.
This chapter highlights some of the important research into possible associations between AD and vascular disease. Because vascular diseases are so common, this line of research is critical. Dr. Thomas Beach, a neuropathologist at Sun Health Research Institute, describes its significance, "The great potential of the vascular hypothesis in Alzheimer's disease is that we may be able to replicate the success that scientists in cardiovascular disease have had in preventing heart attacks and strokes. It's always more difficult to cure a disease once it's happened than to prevent it." Beach notes that medical science has had great success in preventing heart attacks and preventing strokes with the use of cholesterol-lowering medication and blood-pressure-lowering medication. The great potential, he says is that if atherosclerotic vascular disease contributes even in part to Alzheimer's disease, we may be able to prevent it, to some extent, with drugs that are already tested and available.
Previous: Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
Next: Vascular Injury
Excerpted from THE ALZHEIMER'S PROJECT: MOMENTUM IN SCIENCE, published by Public Affairs, www.publicaffairsbooks.com.
In This Section
- Vascular Disease
- Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
- Connecting Alzheimer's Disease to Vascular Disease
- Vascular Injury
- Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
- The Problem of Cholesterol
- What's Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain
- Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease
- Associating Alzheimer's Disease with Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
- Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
- Insulin in the Brain
Momentum in Science: The Supplementary Series
- Understanding and Attacking Alzheimer's 12 min
- How Far We Have Come in Alzheimer's Research 15 min
- Identifying Mild Cognitive Impairment 20 min
- The Role of Genetics in Alzheimer's 12 min
- Advances in Brain Imaging 11 min
- Looking Into the Future of Alzheimer's 6 min
- The Connection Between Insulin and Alzheimer's 21 min
- Inflammation, the Immune System, and Alzheimer's 29 min
- The Benefit of Diet and Exercise in Alzheimer's 16 min
- Cognitive Reserve: What the Religious Orders Study is Revealing about Alzheimer's 20 min
- Searching for an Alzheimer's Cure: The Story of Flurizan 30 min
- The Pulse of Drug Development 15 min
- The DeMoe Family: Early-Onset Alzheimer's Genetics 25 min
- The Nanney/Felts Family: Late-Onset Alzheimer's Genetics 20 min
- The Quest for Biomarkers 17 min
Video: Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease
This 4-minute captioned video shows the progression of Alzheimer's disease in the brain.
Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour
The Brain Tour explains how the brain works and how Alzheimer's affects it.
Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery
This book explains what AD is, describes the main areas in which researchers are working, and highlights new approaches for helping families and friends care for people with AD.
- About The Scientists
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- Rapid advances in our knowledge about AD have led to the development of promising new drugs and treatment strategies. However, before these new strategies can be used in clinical practice, they must be shown to work in people. Advances in prevention and treatment are only possible thanks to volunteers who participate in clinical trials.
- Among those touched by Alzheimer's (excluding self), nearly one-third provide support as a friend or relative, another 3% provide support as a healthcare professional, and the remaining two-thirds provide no support to the person suffering from Alzheimer's. When support is provided, it most often entails emotional support, followed by care-giving support. While small in comparison, more than one person in ten is providing financial support. Read more.