There have been various research attempts to outline the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease as well as other degenerative brain conditions such as dementia and stroke. However, while cardiovascular diseases have been associated with different risk factors such as lack of exercise, improper diet and smoking, there have been no clearly documented risk factors which increase the vulnerability of the brain to dementia. Nevertheless, the findings of a study which were published in the Neurology journal have facilitated considerable evidence regarding the role of blood pressure as a formidable risk factor for cognitive decline.
The study was led by the medical director of the Rush Memory Clinic at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis and the research was initiated in 1994. The research team enlisted the help of almost 1300 volunteers from three studies of aging that was conducted on senior citizens who had agreed to donate their brains for an autopsy following their death and also included the Religious Orders Study of Catholic clergy across the United States.
At the initial phase of the research, every participant was above the age of 65 years without any known signs of dementia. The blood pressures of the participants were measured and they were followed for an average of eight years until they died after enrolling in the study. The team performed post-mortem autopsies on the brain tissues of the participants in order to find the two prominent signs of Alzheimer’s disease such as brain lesions and protein plaques as well as tangles of dying and dead nerve fibrils termed as tau.
The findings of the study implied that almost half of the participants in the study had one or more of the brain lesions with the observation of individuals having higher blood pressure at higher risk. People with higher diastolic readings were also identified to be at higher risks to the problem. However, the lead researcher Dr. Arvanitakis stated that despite the promising outcomes from the study it is essential to undertake further research in order to obtain prolific insights into the link between blood pressure and other indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.