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Heart Health and Alzheimer's Disease

Fatty Plaque Deposition in Heart May Increase your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Published April 02,  2014

A recent study published online in JAMA Neurology suggests an association betweenatherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. These findings once again confirm a link between poor heart health and Alzheimer's Risk.

Previous studies have found an association between high blood pressure (BP) and pathological features of Alzheimer's disease, such as formation of neurofibrillary tangles and brain atrophy (shrinking of brain). Understand what happens inside the brain during Alzheimer's disease. A new study performed by Dr. Hughes and team, found that build up of fats inside the arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis that causes artery stiffness) may increase deposition of beta amyloid plaque in the brain. Formation of beta amyloid plaques is one of the main pathological features (hallmarks) of Alzheimer's disease, and it can be diagnosed and measured using some latest technologies such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET).

During the study, the scientists studied the change in beta amyloid plaque deposition inside the brains of 81 individuals aged 83 years and older. The scientists also measured arterial stiffness using automated waveform analyzer that assesses the speed with which blood moves through arteries. The amyloid plaque deposition was measured twice over a two year time period. During two year period the proportion of people with amyloid plaque in brain increased from 48 to 75 percent. Interestingly, the scientists found that the development of amyloid plaque was associated with increased stiffness of arteries.

The study showed that in very old people (above the age of 80 years) amyloid plaque deposition in brain increases with age and is strongly associated with arterial stiffness. The results confirmed and extended some previous findings that indicated that amyloid plaque deposition is strongly related to the severity of stiffness in blood vessels. Although BP increase too is associated with deposition of amyloid plaque in brain, BP may decline in later stages of life. Therefore, authors suggest that increased arterial stiffness is a better marker of amyloid plaque deposition in brain than BP in very old people.



  1. Hughes TM, Kuller LH. Arterial Stiffness and β-Amyloid Progression in Nondemented Elderly Adults. JAMA Neurol. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.186 Published online March 31, 2014.
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