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Risk factors for vascular dementia: Hypotension as a key point

Authors Rita Moretti, Paola Torre, Rodolfo M Antonello, Davide Manganaro, Cristina Vilotti, Gilberto Pizzolato

Published 11 April 2008 Volume 2008:4(2) Pages 395—402

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/VHRM.S2434

Rita Moretti, Paola Torre, Rodolfo M Antonello, Davide Manganaro, Cristina Vilotti, Gilberto Pizzolato

Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Neurology University of Trieste, Italy

Abstract: Physiologically, the cerebral autoregulation system allows maintenance of constant cerebral blood flow over a wide range of blood pressure. In old people, there is a progressive reshape of cerebral autoregulation from a sigmoid curve to a straight line. This implies that any abrupt change in blood pressure will result in a rapid and significant change in cerebral blood flow. Hypertension has often been observed to be a risk factor for vascular dementia (VaD) and sometimes for Alzheimer disease although not always. Indeed, high blood pressure may accelerate cerebral white matter lesions, but white matter lesions have been found to be facilitated by excessive fall in blood pressure, including orthostatic dysregulation and postprandial hypotension. Many recent studies observed among other data, that there was a correlation between systolic pressure reduction and cognitive decline in women, which was not accounted for by other factors. Baseline blood pressure level was not significantly related to cognitive decline with initial good cognition. Some researchers speculate that blood pressure reduction might be an early change of the dementing process. The most confounding factor is that low pressure by itself might be a predictor of death; nevertheless, the effect of low blood pressure on cognition is underestimated because of a survival bias. Another explanation is that clinically unrecognized vascular lesions in the brain or atherosclerosis are responsible for both cognitive decline and blood pressure reduction. We discuss the entire process, and try to define a possible mechanism that is able to explain the dynamic by which hypotension might be related to dementia.

Keywords: vascular dementia, hypotension, low blood pressure, alzheimer disease

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