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Hardened Arteries Linked to Brain Plaques

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 05:46 PM EDT

Older people with hardening of the arteries are more likely to have beta-amyloid plaques in their brains, according to a new study.

Beta-amyloid plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

"This is more evidence that cardiovascular health leads to a healthy brain," study author Timothy M. Hughes, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh said in a news release.

The latest study involved 91 people with an average age of 87. None of the participants had dementia. Participants underwent brain scans to see if they had any plaques in their brains. The amount of stiffness in participants'' arteries was measured about two years later.

Researchers found that half of the participants had beta-amyloid plaques. Participants with plaques were more likely high systolic blood pressure, higher average blood pressure and higher arterial stiffness as measured with the brachial-ankle method.

The findings revealed that people were twice as likely to have beta-amyloid plaques in the brain for every unit increase in brachial-ankle arterial stiffness. Researchers said that arterial stiffness was highest in people who had both amyloid plaques and white matter hyperintensities in the brain, or brain lesions.

"These two conditions may be a 'double-hit' that contributes to the development of dementia," Hughes said. "Compared to people who had low amounts of amyloid plaques and brain lesions, each unit of increase in arterial stiffness was associated with a two- to four-fold increase in the odds of having both amyloid plaques and a high amount of brain lesions."

This study adds to growing evidence that hardening of the arteries is associated with cerebrovascular disease that does not show symptoms. Now we can add Alzheimer's type lesions to the list," Hughes said.

The findings are published in the journal Neurology

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