In a new study that examined the association of cerebrovascular disease with a wide variety of neurodegenerative diseases, the strongest correlation was found to be with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that the link was strongest in younger Alzheimer’s patients, in whom the effects of cerebrovascular disease were most pronounced.
Cerebrovascular disease, which affects the circulation of blood in the brain, has previously been shown to play a part in neurodegenerative disease. However, the study is the first to examine vascular disease across the whole spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases, including Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Researchers were surprised to discover the strong link to cerebrovascular disease in young Alzheimer’s patients in particular.
The study, published in the July 10 issue of Brain, examined 5715 cases from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC). It found that 80% of the Alzheimer’s patients displayed vascular pathology in the brain to some degree, which is defined as bleeding, hardened or blocked blood vessels, or tissue death from lack of blood supply. This is compared to the 66% in the Parkinson’s disease group and 67% in the control group of people with no signs of neurodegenerative disease.
The results of the study have clear implications for public health, both in treatment and prevention. Those already exhibiting the signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairment may benefit from proven treatments for vascular issues. Young and middle aged people can also be conscious of vascular health through diet and exercise, with the possibility of delaying or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, the study’s results carry significance in the design of current and future clinical trials. Clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease treatments often exclude patients with vascular risk factors, when in fact they must be included for a more accurate sample of the disease’s population and understanding of clinical effects in patients with both vascular and neurodegenerative disease.