News / Health

Blood Vessel Disease Linked to Dementia

High cholesterol or blood pressure can damage brain cells

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Researcher Owen Carmichael says most people develop vascular disease as they age, which affects blood flow to the brain.
Researcher Owen Carmichael says most people develop vascular disease as they age, which affects blood flow to the brain.

Researchers have identified a link between dementia and the brain damage that can occur in older people with high blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions that affect blood flow don't have obvious symptoms, which is why they are sometimes described as silent vascular disease. But researcher Owen Carmichael at the University of California-Davis says most people develop vascular disease as they age, and it affects blood flow to the brain.

"Vascular disease is so widespread, and such a small amount of it can affect your ability to think, that it's almost — I don't want to use the word 'ubiquitous,' but it's very, very common in the elderly," he said.

Carmichael is lead author of a new study that found people with brain damage caused by this silent vascular disease are more likely to show a faster decline in memory and thinking ability — cognitive impairment.

Study participants were given MRI scans to identify damaged brain tissue that was, in effect, starved when the blood vessels couldn't provide enough nutrients. They were also given tests to evaluate any change in their cognitive abilities over three years.

Although people with damage to the brain tissue called white matter are more likely to have dementia, Carmichael stops short of saying that the brain damage actually causes the dementia.

"Many different things are going on in the brains of people who are aging. So cognitive problems in late in life are not like cancer or HIV, where there's basically one big biological problem going on. There's actually many different things going on at the same time."

And he says it's up to researchers to figure out how those factors interact to cause the decline in memory, thinking, and other skills that are seen in dementia.

"If you walked in on day one and you seemed to have a great deal of this white matter damage, then you tended to do worse over the course of a year in terms of your ability to think," he said.

Carmichael says for now this is just a research finding, not the basis for screening patients to see if they have a higher chance of developing dementia. But he says it does underscore the importance of cardiovascular health for keeping the brain, as well as the heart, healthy.

He says there's no treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, one feared cause of dementia.

"But now, if vascular problems are also affecting your ability to think over time, we have gobs of treatments for that. There are all sorts of different things you can do to help your blood flow. So treating the vascular disease might actually, in the long term, help your process of cognitive aging."

Owen Carmichael describes the results of this study in the Archives of Neurology, a journal published by the American Medical Association.  

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid