Alzheimer's Association Statement on a Study of Stroke and the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Association
Monday, 15 December 2003

From Archives Of Neurology, December 2003

William Thies, Ph.D., vice president, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Alzheimer's Association.

A great deal of evidence shows that vascular risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure – factors that cause strokes and heart disease – may also increase the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. In addition, there is growing evidence that poor blood vessel function in the brain can contribute to or accelerate the neurodegenerative processes of Alzheimer's disease.

This new study adds to a growing body of evidence that there is a relationship between vascular risk factors and Alzheimer's disease. However, this study also illustrates that the relationship is not a simple one, and that more research is needed to clarify and understand it.

We need to track down the linkages between vascular disease and Alzheimer's disease. This is an increasingly promising avenue of research with enormous potential payoff. The Alzheimer's Association has made investigations of the vascular/Alzheimer connection a priority in several of our recent research funding cycles.

While we do not yet know exactly what the relationship is between vascular risk factors and Alzheimer's disease, the accumulated evidence points to the possibility that people may delay the appearance of dementia symptoms or prevent Alzheimer's by addressing and correcting their vascular risk factors.

In other words, what's good for the heart may be good for the head.

In the current study, older adults who had a stroke were found to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than those without strokes. Alzheimer risk increased even more for people who also had high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease in addition to a history of stroke. Amongst study participants, a history of stroke was associated with an earlier age of onset of dementia symptoms. In the absence of stroke, none of those factors except diabetes appeared to increase Alzheimer risk.

The Alzheimer's Association is the world leader in Alzheimer research and support. Having awarded more than $150 million to nearly 1,300 projects, the Alzheimer's Association is the largest private funder of Alzheimer's disease research. The Association's vision is a world without Alzheimer's disease. For more information about Alzheimer's disease, research and treatments, please call 800-272-3900.

"Stroke and the Risk of Alzheimer' Disease," by Honig, et al, appears in the December 2003 issue of Archives of Neurology.

For more information, or to contact Alzheimer's Association, see their website at: www.alz.org

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