Metabolic Abnormalities Linked to a Form of Dementia

Posted by Admin on March 3, 2009

The condition known as metabolic syndrome – a group of abnormalities that opens the door to heart disease and diabetes – appears to be linked with an amplified risk of developing so-called vascular dementia , but not Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study revealed. Vascular (blood-supply-related) dementia is the most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. It’s caused by the gradual narrowing of blood vessels in the brain, reducing oxygen supply and leading to deterioration of a person’s intellectual powers. The condition is often associated with stroke, and common risk factors are smoking and high blood pressure.

A patient displays clinical metabolic syndrome when he suffers from three or more of the following five conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides (another type of blood fat).

“If metabolic syndrome were also associated with increased risk of developing dementia, the screening and management of [the metabolic syndrome’s] components might offer avenues for prevention of cardiovascular disease and dementia as well,” Christelle Raffaitin of University Hospital Bordeaux, Pessac and her colleagues wrote in the journal Diabetes Care.

“However, the association between metabolic syndrome, or its individual components, and dementia has received little attention,” they said. The researchers conducted a four-year study on 7,087 seniors who were dementia-free at the beginning, 15.8 percent of whom had the metabolic syndrome. The participants all completed at least one follow-up examination.

The team found that the metabolic syndrome independently increased the likelihood of vascular dementia, but not Alzheimer’s disease. They also discovered that only one component of the metabolic syndrome – high triglyceride levels – was strongly correlated with vascular dementia. A major connection was also noted between diabetes and vascular dementia. Impaired fasting glucose, a precursor to full-blown diabetes, was not associated with any type of dementia.

The relationship among high triglycerides, diabetes and vascular dementia “emphasizes the need for detection and treatment of vascular risk factors in older persons in order to prevent the likelihood of clinical dementia,” Raffaitin said. “Our next step is to study the associations between cognitive decline – the stage before dementia – and metabolic syndrome and its components.”


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