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Heart-Healthy Behaviors Can Avert Mixed Dementia

Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol could slow decline

TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol levels could help prevent or slow the progression of mixed dementia, claims a study in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For some people, this kind of heart-friendly behavior can be more effective than expensive drugs in reducing memory loss, confusion, and other problems caused by dementia, the study found.

Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and the Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies in Seattle analyzed previous research about mixed dementia.

Mixed dementia is a combination of vascular dementia -- caused in part by problems with blood flow to the brain -- and Alzheimer's disease. Mixed dementia may affect as many as 20 percent of the 6.8 million Americans with dementia, the study noted.

"Having risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol does damage to small blood vessels in the brain and can cause death of brain cells over time," study author Dr. Kenneth Langa, an assistant professor of general medicine and research investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, said in a prepared statement.

"In addition, the Alzheimer's disease process itself can affect the walls of blood vessels in the brain, making strokes more likely. Strokes can cause dementia through the death of large areas of brain tissue, or through the buildup of damage of multiple small strokes caused by atherosclerosis in small arteries in the brain or the larger carotid arteries in the neck," Langa said.

After reviewing the data, Langa and his colleagues concluded that efforts to control high blood pressure and cholesterol may be more effective than memory drugs in protecting brain function in people with mixed dementia.

They added, however, that further research is necessary.

More information

The American Geriatrics Society has more about dementia.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Dec. 14, 2004
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