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High pulse pressure tied to increased Alzheimer's risk

Teresa Tanoos's picture
High pulse pressure associated with higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

If you are middle-aged and have high pulse pressure, which is a measure of high blood pressure, you may have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.


Pulse pressure is the number you get after taking your blood pressure and then subtracting the lowest number (diastolic pressure) from the highest number (systolic pressure). If the result is a high pulse pressure reading, it may mean you have propensity for developing heart disease, especially in later life.

Similarly, high blood pressure is known to damage the heart, which in turn can result in a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In this latest study, researchers discovered that those in middle-aged with high pulse pressure had an increased likelihood of having Alzheimer's biomarkers in their spinal fluid than those who had lower pulse pressure.

The were 177 participants involved in the study, all of whom were aged 55 to 100 and had never before had any symptoms or signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

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For the study, researchers from the VA San Diego Healthcare System needed to obtain spinal fluid from the participants, so all 177 of them had their blood pressure taken and underwent lumber punctures.

The researchers then examined the spinal fluid, finding that those aged 55 to 70 with high pulse pressure readings had more biomarkers of Alzheimer's in their cerebral spinal fluid than the participants who had lower pulse pressure, wish such biomarkers including beta amyloid plaques, tangles and p-tau protein.

Study author Daniel Nation from the VA San Diego Healthcare System explained that the results suggest that “forces involved in blood circulation” may be linked to the loss of brain cells and other classic symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Nation also pointed out that the link between high pulse pressure and Alzheimer's disease was seen only in those participates between the ages of 55 and 70. He added that this was consistent with findings suggesting that high blood pressure is the best indicator of memory problems and brain cell loss in later life.

Source: Pulse pressure is associated with Alzheimer biomarkers in cognitively normal older adults, Daniel A. Nation, PhD Steven D. Edland, PhD Mark W. Bondi, PhD David P. Salmon, PhD Lisa Delano-Wood, PhD Elaine R. Peskind, MD Joseph F. Quinn, MD Douglas R. Galasko, MD, published in Neurology, 13 November 2013.