Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have led a study examining the link between cardiovascular function and cognitive decline in the elderly in Singapore.
Associate Professor Helen Zhou from the Center for Sleep and Cognition and Dr. Mitchell Lai from the Department of Pharmacology focused on circulating cardiovascular markers and cerebrovascular function.
They found that three biomarkers of blood-heart disease were linked to higher brain free water levels, suggesting a possible deterioration in nerve function.
The research was published in the journal Neurology.
Findings from open water imaging
Brain free water detected by diffusion MRI is a novel imaging marker that may help detect early and subtle cerebrovascular dysfunction.
In this study, the researchers measured the free water in the brain’s gray and white matter separately.
They found that cardiovascular biomarkers are associated with higher free water content in extensive regions of white matter, which transmit signals to other regions of the brain, and in certain gray matter networks.
Cardiovascular Disorder and Cognitive Decline
The study suggests that cardiovascular dysfunction could lead to changes in the cerebral vasculature that could affect small arteries, arterioles and capillaries and cause neurovascular changes.
These changes can trigger cerebrovascular dysfunction processes leading to neuronal damage, synaptic loss and neurodegeneration, which can ultimately lead to dementia and cognitive decline.
Free water as an indicator of cerebrovascular dysfunction was found to fully explain associations between blood biomarkers and cognitive decline over a five-year period.
For example, higher proportion of free water in the executive control network was associated with impairment in executive function, while free water in the standard mode network mediated the association with memory impairment.
Implications for dementia and precision medicine
As the prevalence of dementia is expected to double every 20 years and Singapore has a high prevalence of cerebrovascular disease (CeVD) in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, the study results have significant implications.
The team suggest that assessing free water in certain brain networks, along with a blood test for cardiovascular biomarkers, could help predict cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease progression and domain-specific cognitive decline.
The researchers plan to advance brain imaging and blood-based tests, thereby contributing to precision and preventive medicine, particularly for middle-aged and relatively healthy Singaporeans.
If you are interested in dementia, please read studies on new drugs for incurable vascular dementia and high blood pressure that may lower the risk of dementia for some old adults.
For more information on dementia, see the latest studies showing that cataract removal can reduce the risk of dementia by 30% and their results These antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.
The study was published in neurology.
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