High Blood Pressure Likely in Alzheimer's Offspring

MONDAY Nov. 2, 2009 -- Middle-aged adults whose parents have Alzheimer's disease are at increased risk for high blood pressure, evidence of arterial disease and markers of inflammation -- all of which may be associated with later development of Alzheimer's disease.

That's the finding of a study by researchers in the Netherlands who compared 206 adults in 92 families with a parental history of Alzheimer's and 200 adults in 97 families with no parental history of the disease.

The team at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam measured the participants' blood pressure, analyzed blood samples for genetic characteristics, cholesterol levels and levels of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines, and collected medical history and details about diet, exercise and stress levels.

The study found that 47 percent of adults with Alzheimer's-afflicted parents carried the gene (APOE e4) known to be associated with the disease, compared with 21 percent of those with no family history of Alzheimer's. Those with a family history had higher blood pressure readings, signs of arterial disease and higher levels of several different cytokines.

High blood cholesterol and glucose levels were not associated with parental Alzheimer's disease, according to the study, which is published in the November issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

"Our study shows that high blood pressure and an innate pro-inflammatory cytokine response in middle age significantly contribute to Alzheimer's disease," wrote Dr. Eric van Exel and colleagues. "As these risk factors cluster in families, it is important to realize that early interventions could prevent late-onset Alzheimer's disease. One could argue for a high-risk prevention strategy by identifying the offspring of patients with Alzheimer's disease, screening them for hypertension and vascular factors and implementing various (non)pharmacological health measures."

Posted: November 2009


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