Dementia’s Linked To Chronic Brain Inflammation In Seniors

Dementia’s have been linked to chronic brain inflammation in senior citizens . Recently, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, tracked levels of a blood bio-marker called C-reactive protein and its relation to dementia risk in senior citizens.  Past studies had found a relationship between increased levels of brain inflammation bio-markers and the development of dementia.

The Johns Hopkins researchers found that individuals who had an increase in brain inflammation during midlife that continued into their late 70’s showed significant brain damage as measured with MRI scans. Memory and cognitive function is poorer compared to the control group.

 

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Dementia’s: Brain Inflammation A Marker For Dementia

Researchers measured participants’ brain structure at middle age  (age 50’s) as a baseline and then followed them for the next 21 years. Levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, which is produced in the liver  was used as the brain inflammation marker. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a blood test marker for inflammation in the body. CRP is produced in the liver and its level is measured by testing the blood. CRP will rise in response to inflammation.

Participants tested 5 times during this 21 year interval; on average about once every 3 years. At the final visit the average age was 76. Blood samples were collected at the second, fourth, and final visit. In addition, at the final visit, a MRI scanned for white matter brain damage.  Brain white matter transports information between brain cells. A protective coat of myelin protects these transmissions. In brain scans, white matter damage appears as intensely white patches.

 

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Dementia’s: Results

Participants with less than 3 milligrams of C-reactive protein scored as low level brain inflammation. Those with 3 milligrams and higher categorized as high level inflammation. Individuals with high bio-marker levels at mid-life also showed the most white matter damage in the brain. And furthermore, this brain damage in middle age was similar to that seen in people 16 years older.

These results suggest a chronic relationship between high levels of inflammation in middle age that continue into old age and the development of dementia.

Catching dementia early enough may spur development of treatments to prevent this chronic decline.

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