A new study has revealed that small blood vessel damage caused by hypertension and diabetes can increase the risk of developing dementia and in some cases can lead to the debilitating condition.
The team of researchers led by Dr. Thomas Montine of the University of Washington analysed the autopsy data of 221 men and women.
They also examined the brain tissue of select volunteers from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, wherein 3,400 adult participants aged 65 and above in the Seattle region agreed to undergo neurological and psychological tests every two years until their death.
The findings revealed that the about 33 pct of dementia risk was associated with brain damage from small vessel disease.
The autopsied brains of a third of men and women with dementia or cognitive decline showed evidence of small vessel damage -- a cumulative injury that can result from multiple small strokes caused by hypertension and diabetes.
The strokes are so small that the person experiences no sensation or problems until they reach a tipping point.
While unexpected, this finding may be good news, because while Alzheimer's treatments remain investigational, there are many options to reduce hypertension and diabetes, Dr. Montine said.