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2011-09-15

Arterial Calcification Linked to Dementia

Calcification in atherosclerotic plaques (arterial calcification) is a novel marker of atherosclerosis and is related to cardiovascular disease. However, its relationship with cerebrovascular (blood vessels in the brain) disease has not been investigated extensively. So this new study investigated the relationship between calcification in various vessel beds outside the brain and imaging markers of vascular brain disease.

A total of 885 community-dwelling people (average age, 66.7 years) underwent computed tomography (CT scan) of the coronary arteries, aortic arch, and extracranial and intracranial carotid arteries to assess arterial calcification. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were performed to assess cerebral infarcts, microbleeds, and white matter lesions (WMLs). 

Results showed arterial calcification in major vessel beds outside the brain, as shown with MRI, was associated with vascular brain disease and may be linked to future risk for dementia and stroke. 

Moreover, the amount of calcified plaque outside the brain provided more information about the extent of brain changes than traditional ultrasound measures of plaque in the carotid artery.

The relationship between calcium in atherosclerotic plaque and brain changes were independent from classic cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

This may be useful to understand that calcification in coronary arteries, though far away from the brain, may indicate presence of subclinical brain disease as well. How does this translate to a clinical outcome? I think it's too early to say at this point, but does suggest preventing calcification of the arteries is a wise idea.

In another article that covered this study, I read that originally, Alzheimer's disease was thought to be caused by atherosclerosis in the brain. In 1906, when Alois Alzheimer published his very first paper in Germany, he said that Alzheimer's disease was really due to hardening of the arteries in the brain. Then, about 3 decades ago, a biochemist showed that, it has nothing to do with hardening of the arteries. It's all about amyloid--it's all about plaques and tangles in the brain--and slowly the vascular part of the story was forgotten.

However, it seems there's a revival of the vascular part of the story in the last few years and doctors are paying attention to it again.

Source: Calcification in Major Vessel Beds Relates to Vascular Brain Disease

How can you prevent this calcification? Great question. In my opinion, take vitamin K2. Here are some previous posts where I discuss this...
So cheers to vitamin K. That's K for Know, and "Knowing" is half the battle. (I know, I know...that's insanely cheesy. And yes, I actually just said that.)

...lastly, some other posts on Alzheimer's and dementia:
...and some other posts on vitamin K


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