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Alzheimer's Disease & Amyloid Plaques
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Alzheimer's Disease & Amyloid Plaques

April 22, 2014

With new developments in medical research, it may soon be possible to foresee Alzheimer’s development before symptoms interfere with everyday living.

A recent study out of Wake Forest University in North Carolina showed a connection between arterial stiffness and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The research demonstrated an increase in beta-amyloid (Αβ) plaque in the brain, an indicator of Alzheimer’s, in subjects who had more plaque in their arteries.

doctor studying x-rays The study used scans to look at subjects’ brains and monitor Αβ. Researchers then measured arterial stiffness in several areas of the body, mainly extremities. All participants were at least 83 years old and did not have any symptoms of dementia. During the two-year study, the number of patients with Αβ buildup jumped from 48 percent to 75 percent which directly reflected the increase in arterial plaque and stiffness. At this point, scientists needs to conduct more research to understand what links the two processes of buildup.

According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, atherosclerosis or arterial stiffness is caused by a buildup of fat and cholesterol in the arterial walls. Over time, the plaque gathers, making arteries narrower and harder. Smoking, heavy drinking and sedentary lifestyle are some factors that can lead to high blood cholesterol.

Αβ plaque collects between nerve cells in the brain while Alzheimer’s disease progresses, as described by the Alzheimer’s Association. Protein pieces that comprise Αβ plaque are from protein in the membrane that encompasses nerve cells. Smaller protein pieces can be more disruptive to brain function than plaque buildup because they may block cell-to-cell contact and activate immune system cells. Those immune system cells cause inflammation and consume nearby disabled cells. This buildup starts in the hippocampus where learning, memory, planning and thinking occur, even before medical tests can confirm a diagnosis, according to the organization.

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