Professor Kaarin Anstey
At a general level, we would say now that what is good for your heart is good for your brain. The vascular risk factors, things that influence your heart health or your vascular system, will also influence your vascular system in the brain, your cerebrovascular health. For example, hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease but it’s also a risk factor for stroke and for dementia.
High cholesterol in midlife appears to, although we don’t have as robust evidence as we’d like on that, but from the evidence we do have, it seems to increase the risk. Diabetes, type 2 diabetes and type 1 both increase the risk. Sedentary lifestyle increases the risk, depression increases the risk. And depression is actually a cardiovascular risk factor, and very much linked with heart health, although it’s sometimes not considered a cardiovascular risk factor in the same way.
We focus on the two most common types of causes of dementia, we have vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Vascular dementia is caused by small strokes and large strokes and through hardening of the arteries. The risk factors that increase blood pressure and cause arthrosclerosis, they’re all going to increase the risk of vascular dementia. But, similarly, what’s being discovered more and more is that the vascular risk factors also increase Alzheimer's pathology in the brain. We don’t understand all the mechanism underpinning that, but they seem to increase that at the same time.