Clogged Arteries Can Also Create Cognitive Impairments

Artery-clogging processes that medical experts report causes heart disease can also result in age-related vascular cognitive impairments.

A new report issued by the American Heart Association explains the link.  Cognitive impairments are also known as dementia and include difficulty with thinking, reasoning and memory.  They noted the impairment can be caused by vascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, a combination of both and other causes.

Medical experts explain that atherosclerosis is a build- up of plaque in the arteries associated with elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and other risk factors.   According to the study, when it restricts or blocks blood flow to the brain, it is called cerebrovascular disease, which can result in vascular cognitive impairment, explains Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Cognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s are the leading cause of costly long-term care for millions of Americans,” Slome explains, “and few are taking steps in terms of health or finances to prepare.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and destroys brain cells.  The medical experts reported that cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease may work together to cause cognitive impairment and the mixed disorder may be the most common type of dementia in older persons.

The prevalence of dementia increases with advancing age and affects about 30 percent of people over 80 years of age, costing more than $40,000 per patient annually in the United States, according to AALTCI.

Treating risk factors for heart disease and stroke with lifestyle changes and medical management may prevent or slow the development of dementia in some people, the report’s authors noted.  Generally speaking, what is good for the heart is good for the brain they noted. 

Reducing high blood pressure is recommended to reduce the risk of vascular cognitive impairment. High blood pressure in mid-life may be an important risk factor for cognitive decline later in life.  In addition, smoking cessation could lessen the risk of vascular cognitive impairment.

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