Atherosclerosis is the deposit of fat, cholesterol and other substances in the inner lining of an artery. It has long been an established risk factor for heart disease. It can reduce blood flow to the brain and lead to strokes, which can lead to vascular dementia. Excessive levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called « bad » cholesterol, often lead to atherosclerosis.
A Dutch study published in the Annals of Neurology concluded that atherosclerosis, primarily carotid artery atherosclerosis, was associated with an increased risk of dementia. The carotid arteries are found in the neck along each side of the trachea. A study performed at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD concluded that intracranial atherosclerosis, but not in the heart or aorta, significantly increased the risk of dementia. Intracranial atherosclerosis can be found in the skull in the arteries of the brain. It establishes intracranial atherosclerosis as an independent and important risk factor for dementia.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m2. BMI is an indirect measure of body fat based on weight (in kilograms) and height (in meters). The measure has long been used to estimate the risk of developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. It is believed that 50% of adults suffer from central obesity. Researchers now believe there may be a link between increased BMI and the development of dementia.
A Harvard Medical School study concluded that increased BMI is independently associated with an increased risk of dementia. Another study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found midlife obesity was associated with an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s dementia, later in life. Finally, a study published in Neurology found that central obesity in midlife was correlated with an increased risk of dementia independent of diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.