The findings suggest that in patients age 50 and older, diminished volumes in the hippocampus may be early risk indicators for Alzheimer's, dementia, and brain damage.
Specific cardiovascular risk factors such as
- alcohol consumption,
- and diabetes
“We already know that vascular risk factors damage the brain and can result in cognitive impairment. Our findings give us a more concrete idea about the relationship between specific vascular risk factors and brain health.”
~ said Kevin S. King, M.D., Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
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Specific Cardiovascular Risk Factors May Predict Alzheimer's Disease
The research summary is published online in the journal Radiology.
Prior studies have linked cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive decline, but the new study focused on specific risk factors and examined three main brain regions, including
- the hippocampus,
- precuneus and
- posterior cingulate cortex.
- King and colleagues analyzed results from 1,629 individuals in the Dallas Heart Study (DHS) and divided the participants into two age groups.
- There were 805 participants under age 50, and 824 age 50 and older.
By comparing the initial visit in which cardiovascular risk factors were identified to the MRI results and cognitive scores, the team was able to distinguish the specific risk factors of alcohol consumption, smoking, diabetes, and obesity and their relationship to smaller volumes in the three targeted regions of the brain.
The results confirmed that lower cognitive test scores correlated with lower brain volumes in each area.
The study found that risk factors of
- alcohol use and diabetes were associated with smaller total brain volume,
- while smoking and obesity were linked with reduced volumes of the posterior cingulate cortex, the area of the brain connected with memory retrieval as well as emotional and social behavior.
The findings also suggest that in patients age 50 and older, diminished hippocampal and precuneus volumes may be early risk indicators for cognitive decline, while smaller posterior cingulate volumes are better predictors in patients under age 50.
"We currently do not have effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, so the focus is on prevention. In the future, we may be able to provide patients with useful and actionable information about the impact different risk factors may be having on their brain health during routine clinical imaging. And since no special imaging equipment is needed, there is a great potential to provide this service at many centers across the country.”
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