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Damage to Tiny Blood Vessels in Brain May Raise Alzheimer's Risk
Date:2/18/2013

ither prevention or possible treatment."

Limiting the damage to the brain's blood vessels is also important, Brickman said. Keeping body weight and blood pressure levels in the normal range and not smoking can go a long way in preventing Alzheimer's disease, he said.

For the study, Brickman's team looked for blood vessel damage in the brains of 20 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and in 21 people without the condition.

The researchers found that people with Alzheimer's disease had larger areas of damage than those who were not diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

In addition, blood vessel damage in 59 people with mild memory problems who were included in the study were signs that they were at risk for Alzheimer's disease, the researchers added.

Brickman noted that these areas of blood vessel damage are seen in most patients with Alzheimer's disease. "I think the reason we don't see it in every patient is because the MRI technology we use might not be sensitive enough to pick up all the changes in white matter disease," he said.

The report was published in the Feb. 18 online edition of JAMA Neurology.

One expert said the damage to the tiny blood vessels is yet another aspect to the development of Alzheimer's disease, but it complicates understanding the condition.

"This study provides clear evidence that dementia patients in the real world are more complex than those with the pristine pure Alzheimer's disease that we select in research centers," said Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in New York City.

The causes of this blood vessel damage in the brain aren't well understood, but it appears that these white matter hyperintensities do signal brain damage linked to dementia, he said.

Gandy also noted these areas of blood vessel damage make it harder to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs being tested to reduce plaque in Alzheimer's patients.

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