How Alzheimer’s Disease Affects the Heart

Alzheimer's disease heart diseaseAlzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, characterized by difficulty with memory, thinking, and behavior that gets progressively worse over time. Researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a build-up of amyloid beta proteins in the spaces between brain cells. Although the brain is where symptoms of the disease are first noticed, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than just the brain—it is a systemic disease that can affect the heart too.

This is the conclusion of an investigation published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that studied heart problems in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In this study, researchers examined 22 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 35 healthy patients. The average age of the two groups was 79 and 78 years, respectively. The researchers found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease exhibited extra stiffness in the left ventricle, the thickest chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body. They observed that this stiffness was due to amyloid beta deposits in the heart muscle. This is important because, when the left ventricle becomes too thick, it becomes unable to pump sufficient blood throughout the body, leading to heart failure.

Based on these initial findings, the researchers concluded that Alzheimer’s disease is more than just a disease of the brain. Amyloid beta deposits may occur in organs throughout the body, including the heart. Researchers advise people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families to be alert for potential signs of heart disease. As treatments for Alzheimer’s disease improve and patients with Alzheimer’s disease live longer, these patients may develop heart problems as well as problems related to amyloid beta deposits in other organs.

Here are some tips for maintaining brain and heart health:

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