Risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, also increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. So while we try to take good care of our heart, we might also be helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. We’re starting to understand at even a molecular level why that might be.
There’s an intimate relationship between vascular problems and the proteins that build up in Alzheimer’s disease. If someone has just some vascular disease and just a little bit of Alzheimer’s disease, it could cause them much more cognitive problems than if they didn’t have any vascular disease at all.
It’s interesting that a lot of people can have a fair bit of Alzheimer’s changes in their brain and have no symptoms at all and their memory can be fine. It may well be that those are the people who have particularly good blood vessels and good vascular health. They seem to be able to tolerate a far bigger burden of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain without it causing them major symptoms.