Are blood pressure and cholesterol related to Alzheimer's disease?




British Medical Journal

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Senile dementia is the medical term for senility, the gradual loss of mental function that so often occurs with aging. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of senile dementia, accounts for more than 60 percent of the cognitive function disorders in the aging population. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition that results in a slow deterioration of memory, reasoning, and behavior. The loss of intellectual function interferes with daily life, and after a disease course that may last many years, eventually results in death.
Researchers have looked for clues as to the cause of Alzheimer's disease as well as to risk factors that may be associated with the onset. A study reported in the June 2001 issue of the British Medical Journal reported findings that may have identified two important risk factors for developing this debilitating condition.
This prospective, population based study evaluated 1449 people from within two areas of eastern Finland. The evaluation was done to determine if elevated blood pressure and serum cholesterol are related the development of Alzheimer's disease. A random sample of the population had been studied previously in four surveys dating as early as 1972. Of this population sample currently between the ages of 65-79, 73% agreed to be re-examined in 1998 for this evaluation. Even after multiple adjustments, individuals with a systolic blood pressure of >160 mm Hg or a serum cholesterol of >6.5 mmol/L had a significantly higher risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life than did those with normal systolic blood pressure or serum cholesterol. If both risk factors were present, these individuals had a significantly higher risk for Alzheimer's disease than those with just one risk factor. The authors concluded that "raised systolic blood pressure and high serum cholesterol concentration, and in particular the combination of these risks, in midlife increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life."1


1. Kivipelto M. Midlife vascular risk factors and Alzheimer's disease in later life: longitudinal, population based study. BMJ. Jun 2001;322(7300):1447-51.