Blood flow in the neck may help predict future memory problems

Posted on 12th November 2018

Presentation abstract: Carotid artery wave intensity measured in mid- to late-life predicts future cognitive decline: The Whitehall II study

UK researchers have suggested that a measure of blood flow in the neck may predict the risk of future memory and thinking problems. The findings are presented today (Sunday 11 November) at the American Heart Association Scientific Session conference in Chicago.

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Blood pumped by the heart passes through an intricate network of fragile blood vessels to supply every part of the brain with the fuel it needs. If blood reaches the brain in high intensity pulses this could impact the health of blood vessels and affect the normal functioning of the brain.

“This new study suggests that measuring the intensity of blood flow pulses in the neck could help to predict a person’s risk of future cognitive decline. While these findings are interesting, as the full data from this research is yet to be published it is difficult to assess how useful this kind of scan could be.

“Disruption to the normal flow of blood to the brain is the direct cause of vascular dementia and changes to blood supply also play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This study hasn’t reported whether or not people went on to develop dementia, so we don’t know what potential this kind of scan could hold for efforts to improve diagnosis of the condition.

“What we do know is that the blood supply in the brain is incredibly important, and that maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. Current evidence suggests as well as controlling your blood pressure, not smoking, only drinking within recommended limits, staying active, keeping cholesterol in check, and eating a balanced diet are all things you can do to boost the health of both the heart and the brain.”

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