Cardiovascular risk factors promote brain hypoperfusion leading to cognitive decline and dementia

Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. 2012;2012:367516. doi: 10.1155/2012/367516. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


Heart disease is the major leading cause of death and disability in the world. Mainly affecting the elderly population, heart disease and its main outcome, cardiovascular disease, have become an important risk factor in the development of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease (AD). This paper examines the evidence linking chronic brain hypoperfusion induced by a variety of cardiovascular deficits in the development of cognitive impairment preceding AD. The evidence indicates a strong association between AD and cardiovascular risk factors, including ApoE(4), atrial fibrillation, thrombotic events, hypertension, hypotension, heart failure, high serum markers of inflammation, coronary artery disease, low cardiac index, and valvular pathology. In elderly people whose cerebral perfusion is already diminished by their advanced age, additional reduction of cerebral blood flow stemming from abnormalities in the heart-brain vascular loop ostensibly increases the probability of developing AD. Evidence also suggests that a neuronal energy crisis brought on by relentless brain hypoperfusion may be responsible for protein synthesis abnormalities that later result in the classic neurodegenerative lesions involving the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Insight into how cardiovascular risk factors can induce progressive cognitive impairment offers an enhanced understanding of the multifactorial pathophysiology characterizing AD and ways at preventing or managing the cardiovascular precursors of this dementia.