A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology suggests that controlling or preventing risk factors, such as hypertension, earlier in life may limit or delay the brain chnages associated with Alzheimer's disease and other age-related neurological deterioration.
Dr. Karen Rodrigue, assistant professor in the UT Dallas Center for Vital Longevity (CVL), was lead author of a study that looked at whether people with both hypertension and a common gene had more buildup of a brain plaque called amyloid protein, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Scientists believe amyloid is the first symptom of Alzheimer's disease and shows up a decade or more before symptoms of memory impairment and other cognitive difficulties begin. The gene, known as APOE4, is carried by 20 percent of the population.
Until recently, amyloid plaque could be seen only at autopsy, but new brain scanning techniques allow scientists to see plaque in living brains of healthy adults. Findings from both autopsy and amyloid brain scans show that at least 20 percent of typical older adults carry elevated levels of amyloid, a substance made up mostly of protein that is deposited in organs and tissues.