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How heart disease increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease


When brain performance decrease more and more and the person affected can no longer fend for themselves on a daily basis, we speak of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease represents 60 to 80% of cases. Various diseases can be the cause, including heart disease knowing that heart and brain are connected by the vascular system: a network of blood vessels that carry blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. This close link is once again underlined in a study by researchers from the University of Sheffield and published in the journal eLife revealing that heart disease can cause early brain dysfunction.

An association which is not without consequence since it can promote onset of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the study indicates that heart disease impairs a key brain function that links brain activity and blood flow, causing the brain to receive less blood for the same amount of activity. “It happens in heart patients before the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels of the brain (atherosclerosis). Until now, it was unclear how certain forms of vascular dementia could arise years before atherosclerosis in the brain. “, note the researchers.

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A risk of dementia when the brain no longer receives enough oxygen

Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, is a disease that appears following brain damage of vascular origin, such as a stroke or vascular damage. Its risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of physical exercise, smoking, and a diet too high in bad fats. The researchers also found that the combination of heart disease and a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease triples the amount of beta-amyloid, a protein that builds up and triggers Alzheimer’s disease, and increases levels of an inflammatory gene (IL1) in the brain.

” Alzheimer’s disease is the form of dementia most common in the world and heart disease is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. New findings are key to deepening our understanding of the links between heart disease and dementia. explains Dr. Osman Shabir, lead author of the study. “We discovered that heart disease in midlife causes the disruption of an important mechanism in the brain that controls the amount of blood supplied to our neurons. This break means that the brain not getting enough oxygen when needed and on time, and this can lead to dementia. »

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Building on this discovery, the scientific team has since received a three-year grant from the British Heart Foundation to investigate the use of a arthritis medicine (an inflammatory condition that affects one or more joints) that targets this IL1 gene to see if it could reverse or reduce brain dysfunction caused by heart disease. She also discovered that brain damage can worsen the regulation of cerebral blood flow, confirming observations from other research that patients’ symptoms often worsen after injuries or falls. Its next step will be to conduct a more detailed study on this subject.

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