The researchers say that they have found in a study that Alzheimer's may progress more rapidly in people with high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation.
"The possibility that specific vascular conditions may affect how fast a person with AD declines provides new opportunities for slowing the rate of AD progression. Treatments for atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure are relatively inexpensive and safe and may reduce memory decline in AD patients with these conditions," says lead researcher Dr. Michelle M. Mielke, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Published in the journal Neurology, the study examined 135 men and women over 65 who were newly diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. All participants had undergone annual memory tests for an average of three years.
The researchers found that 10 participants with high blood pressure at the time of their diagnoses with Alzheimer's showed a rate of memory loss roughly 100 per cent faster than individuals with normal blood pressure.
It was also found that 10 participants with atrial fibrillation at the time of their diagnosis with Alzheimer's showed a rate of memory decline that was 75 per cent faster than those with normal heartbeats.
The study participants were part of the Cache County Study on Memory Health and Aging, which has been following a group of 5,092 people 65 or older living in Cache County, Utah, since 1995.
"What makes this group and study unique is that we have been following these participants in the community for over a decade, even before they were first diagnosed with AD, so we know a good deal about their medical history. Studies that enrol AD patients only from clinics may miss key factors, such as date of onset and history of cardiovascular disease and treatment," says Mielke.
She is currently working on similar studies using larger sample sizes to better understand the potential role that vascular factors play before AD diagnosis, and their role over the course of the disease's progression.