Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19
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Heart disease treatments may slow Alzheimer's

By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Treatment of cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure might slow the progression of Alzheimer's, the incurable brain disease that causes memory loss and confusion in millions of people.

That's the conclusion from a study presented Sunday at the second Alzheimer's Association International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C. The findings add to growing evidence suggesting that reducing the risk of heart disease might also shield the brain from a disease that will skyrocket in the coming decades.

If nothing is done to stop the explosion of cases, Alzheimer's worldwide will quadruple from 26.6 million to more than 100 million by 2050, according to a second study presented at the meeting by Ron Brookmeyer, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Previous research had suggested that treatment of high cholesterol and high blood pressure might help prevent Alzheimer's in healthy people. A study at the meeting now suggests that such treatment might actually slow the progression of established disease.

Yan Deschaintre of the Memory Center in Lille, France, studied 891 dementia patients, including people with Alzheimer's. His team gave patients a test that measures thinking ability at the start of the study and then again four years later. The team noted whether patients got treatment during that four-year period for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or diabetes.

Patients who received treatment did better on the final thinking and memory test than the people who got no care.

Some doctors don't bother to treat high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors in such cases because they think the treatment won't make much difference for a patient who's declining rapidly, Deschaintre says. But the new findings suggest even standard care for heart risk factors, like reducing high blood cholesterol with a drug, might help an Alzheimer's patient think a little more clearly, Deschaintre says.

A third study, also presented at the meeting, suggests that optimism and the ability to establish and carry out goals might be traits that help keep the aging brain in shape. Simon Forstmeier and colleagues at the University of Zurich in Switzerland studied 120 people ages 60 to 95. He found that seniors with a can-do attitude did better on memory and thinking tests given at the time of the study.

Forstmeier says people can be trained to be more optimistic, to regulate emotion, and to formulate and achieve goals — all traits that might help build a brain resistant to Alzheimer's.

"We don't know if we'll be able to fully prevent Alzheimer's," Brookmeyer says. But he and other experts are urging people to take steps now that might reduce their risk: "Even a small delay in the disease will have a big impact."

(Original Len: 3176 Condensed Len: 3375)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19