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Better Heart Care Can Prevent "Mixed" Dementia

The same techniques you can use to prevent a heart attack or stroke could also slow down or lessen your risk of suffering from dementia, according to a new study. What's more, the impact of controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol may even be greater than that of potentially toxic drugs intended to preserve your memory.

The focus of this research is "mixed" dementia, a combination of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, caused in part by problems with blood flow in the brain that may affect up to 20 percent of the nearly 7 million Americans already diagnosed with dementia. This condition is particularly common in older patients, who often have memory problems due to several conditions at once. As a result, many people with symptoms blamed on Alzheimer's disease, including wandering, confusion and memory loss, may have mixed dementia.

How does this happen? High blood pressure and cholesterol can eventually kill small blood vessels in the brain. Alzheimer's also affects blood vessels in the brain, making strokes more likely. In other words, processes that hurt the cardiovascular system also hurt the brain, and inflict a further toll on those with Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers found drugs designed to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease (Reminyl, Exelon, Aricept and Namenda) have about the same effect in people with mixed dementia as in people with Alzheimer's alone. In some people, they cause a measurable but not dramatic improvement on tests of cognitive function or other measures, or slightly slow an inevitable decline. When doctors reviewed evidence relating to heart-protecting therapy and dementia, however, they found significant benefits. They conclude that efforts to treat cardiovascular risk factors, especially high blood pressure, may be more effective than memory drugs in protecting brain functioning.

Among the inexpensive and natural methods at your disposal to battle heart disease and mixed dementia:

Science Daily January 3, 2005

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