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Diabetes and Elevated Levels of Cholesterol Linked to Faster Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's Patients
Date:3/6/2009

"Preventing heart disease, stroke and diabetes - or making sure these conditions are well managed in patients diagnosed with them - can potentially slow the disease progression of Alzheimer's," said Dr. Stern.

Dr. Stern and the research team used longitudinal data for a mean of 3.5 years (up to 10.2 years) for 156 people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease who were participants in the Washington Heights/Inwood Columbia Aging Project, a 10-year multi-ethnic, prospective, epidemiological study of cognitive aging and dementia in northern Manhattan.

"Through the Washington Heights/Inwood Columbia Aging Project, we were able to follow patients before they began to show symptoms of Alzheimer's and for several years following their diagnosis. This makes our estimates of progression much more powerful, since we were able to know exactly when cognitive decline began," said Dr. Stern.

They found that a history of diabetes and higher cholesterol levels (total cholesterol and LDL-C) was associated with faster cognitive decline. A history of heart disease and stroke was found to be associated with cognitive decline only in carriers of the apolipoprotein E µ4 (APOE-µ4) gene, which has been implicated in late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers from Columbia's Taub Institute have previously demonstrated a link between stroke, diabetes, smoking, hypertension and a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease. While vascular risk factors have been studied as predictors of Alzheimer's, few studies have assessed their influence on disease progression. As the authors write, "There has been intense interest in identifying modifiable Alzheimer's disease risk factors such as cardiovascular risk factors, with the goal of preventing or at least delaying disease onset. However, little attention has been given to the influence of these factors on disease progression."

Dr. Stern and the research team theor
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