Friday, April 15, 2011

Lowering Cholesterol, Blood Pressure May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Treating traditional risk factors for heart disease such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes may also prevent the progression of mild memory and cognitive problems into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Although dietary changes, cholesterol-lowering statins, and hypertension drugs such as beta-blockers are far from a surefire way to prevent Alzheimer’s, these and other treatments that promote healthy blood vessels may be a practical way for people to reduce their risk, the researchers say.

The study, which was conducted in China and published in the journal Neurology, “highlights the importance of midlife vascular risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, which, unlike age and genetics, can be modified,” says Whitney Wharton, PhD, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin’s Alzheimer’s Institute, in Madison, who was not involved in the research.

Researchers at Daping Hospital, in Chongqing, followed 638 men and women over the age of 55 for five years. All the study participants had problems with memory and mental function that were noticeable but not severe enough to interfere with their daily functioning. This condition, known as mild cognitive impairment, progresses to Alzheimer’s in roughly 10% to 15% of cases each year, according to the study.

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