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Brain Diseases Produce Dementia

A new federal study suggests an individual’s likelihood of having clinical signs of dementia increases with the number of different disease processes present in the brain.

Although many older individuals have some form of brain pathology, the new research supports the observation that the combination of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral infarcts (strokes) is the most common mix of pathologies in the brains of people with dementia.

The implication of these findings is that public health efforts to prevent and treat vascular disease could potentially reduce the occurrence of dementia, the researchers say in the paper.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and conducted at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The findings are found in the journal Neurology.

The researchers used data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project—an ongoing study of 1,200 elderly volunteers who have agreed to be evaluated every year and to donate their brains upon death. The current study compared clinical and autopsy data on the first 141 participants who have died.

Annual physical and psychological exams showed that, while they were alive, 50 of the 141 had dementia. Upon death, a neuropathologist, who was unaware of the results of the clinical evaluation, analyzed each person’s brain.

The autopsies showed that about 85 percent of the individuals had evidence of at least one chronic disease process, such as Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, hemorrhages, tumors, traumatic brain injury or others.

Comparison of the clinical and autopsy results showed that only 30 percent of people with signs of dementia had Alzheimer’s disease alone.

By contrast, 42 percent of the people with dementia had Alzheimer’s disease with infarcts and 16 percent had Alzheimer’s disease with Parkinson’s disease (including two people with all three conditions). Infarcts alone caused another 12 percent of the cases.

Also, 80 of the 141 volunteers who died had sufficient Alzheimer’s disease pathology in their brains to fulfill accepted neuropathologic criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, although in life only 47 were clinically diagnosed with probable or possible Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know that people can have Alzheimer’s pathology without having symptoms,” says Dallas Anderson, Ph.D., population studies program director in the NIA Neuroscience and Neuopsychology of Aging Program.

“The finding that Alzheimer’s pathology with cerebral infarcts is a very common combination in people with dementia adds to emerging evidence that we might be able to reduce some of the risk of dementia with the same tools we use for cardiovascular disease such as control of blood cholesterol levels and hypertension.”

NIA is conducting clinical trials to determine whether interventions for cardiovascular disease can prevent or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. On-going trials cover a range of interventions such as statin drugs, vitamins and exercise.

Source: National Institute on Aging (NIA)/National Institutes of Health

Brain Diseases Produce Dementia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Brain Diseases Produce Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/06/15/brain-diseases-trigger-dementia/896.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.