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Blood Pressure, Heartbeat Problems Aggravate Alzheimer's
Date:11/6/2007

Treating vascular conditions might lessen memory loss, study suggests

TUESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Alzheimer's disease may progress faster in patients with high blood pressure or a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, a new study found.

"The main point of these findings is that vascular factors do affect the rate of progression in Alzheimer's, so treatment of these factors could reduce the rate of decline," said study author Dr. Michelle Mielke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"There are some dementia medications out there that are effective for some people [with Alzheimer's] but, for some people, they aren't effective or can't be tolerated," added Mielke. "Perhaps this is another way of reducing [their] decline. Even if you can give people a few more months with a better quality of life and keep them more cognizant than in the past, I think that then it is worth it."

The study is published in the Nov. 6 issue of Neurology.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, but that number is expected to increase dramatically as the population grows older. Experts believe that about half of people 85 and older may have the disease.

Mielke and her colleagues studied a group of 135 women and men 65 and older from Cache County, Utah. The study participants had developed dementia that was characterized as "possible or probable AD" [Alzheimer's disease] without concurrent vascular dementia, the study said.

Those patients at the time of diagnosis who had systolic blood pressure greater than 160 or atrial fibrillation deteriorated more rapidly, based on standard tests of functioning and mental status, than those who didn't have the conditions, the study found.

Age also played a role in the progression of Alzheimer's for patients who had certa
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