Public Release: 

Significant dementia risk attributable to small blood vessel damage

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Autopsy data of 221 men and women found that the brains of one-third of individuals who had dementia before death showed evidence of small, cumulative blood vessel damage that can arise from hypertension or diabetes.

Dr. Thomas Montine and colleagues analyzed the brain tissue of select volunteers from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, wherein 3,400 adult participants (65+) in the Seattle region agreed to undergo neurological and psychological tests every two years until their death

While some results were unsurprising, such as showing that changes due to Alzheimer's disease or the formation of Lewy bodies (structures indicative of a degenerative disease known as Lewy Body Dementia) accounted for significant dementia risk, the researchers also found that about 33% of dementia risk was associated with brain damage from small vessel disease. This small vessel damage is the cumulative effect of multiple tiny strokes caused by hypertension and diabetes, strokes so small that the person experiences no sensation or problems until they reach a tipping point.

While unexpected, this finding may be good news, because while Alzheimer's treatments remain investigational, there are many options to reduce hypertension and diabetes.

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