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AgingOptions Follow-Up Story: Quick and Easy Scan of Blood Vessels in the Neck Can Predict Dementia, New Study Finds

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Earlier this month we ran this article on the AgingOptions blog that described new research showing a strong connection between hardening of the arteries and dementia. The study showed conclusive evidence that poor arterial health can increase the risk of cognitive decline by as much as 60 percent.

Five-Minute Scan Provides Dramatic Results

Now as a follow-up to that earlier article, we want to call the attention of our readers to a related article we just discovered on the website of CNN. This just-published article makes a startling claim which, if true, could alert patients of their dementia risk in time to make lifestyle changes that might decrease their cognitive risks. According to CNN, doctors can now predict the risk of dementia using a non-invasive scan of the blood vessels in the neck. “A five-minute neck scan could predict a person’s risk of developing dementia a full decade before symptoms emerge,” CNN reports. “The test, which analyzes the pulse of blood vessels in the neck, could become part of routine testing for cognitive decline.”

CNN reports that scientists at the University College London conducted the research study, the results of which were recently presented at a conference of the American Heart Association. Back in 2002, clinicians performed ultrasound scans on the necks of almost 3,200 patients aged 58 to 74. Then researchers monitored the subjects’ cognitive functions between 2002 and 2016. The results were dramatic, says CNN. “People with the most intense pulses, which pointed to a greater and more irregular blood flow, were up to 50 percent more likely to suffer reduced cognitive functions, the research found, because the strength with which blood traveled into their brains caused damage to the brain’s network of blood vessels.”

Poor Arterial Health Means Poor Brain Health

These findings mirror those on which we reported in the blog article earlier in November, and according to the research the underlying cause is the same: poor arterial health. The hardening of the arteries caused by atherosclerosis reduces the elasticity in healthy arteries, causing blood to pump more vigorously into the brain with every heartbeat.  “Pulses become more intense when arteries near the heart are worn down,” says CNN, “usually by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and drug use. [Damaged arteries] can no longer ‘cushion’ the blood flow coming from the heart.”

The CNN article explains the process in greater detail. “When healthy, arteries around the heart can regulate the blood being pumped from the organ, ensuring that it flows smoothly and at a constant rate to the brain,” the article says. “But damage to the arteries means blood flows more aggressively and irregularly through vessels and into the brain, which can damage its network of blood vessels and cells. Over time, the researchers believe this led more frequently to cognitive decline in participants in the study.”

Staggering Costs Make Battling Dementia a National Crusade

The term “dementia” encompasses a range of symptoms associated with loss of brain function, says CNN. Vascular dementia, which is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, and Alzheimer’s disease make up the vast majority of dementia cases. At least 6 million Americans and as many as 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, according to the World Health Organization, a number which could triple by 2050.  The Alzheimer’s Association website reports that the costs related to Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. alone are estimated at $277 billion, which places a staggering burden on our over-burdened health care system and makes reducing the risk a national imperative.

“If you can detect [the risk] in people in mid-life, it really gives an impetus to those people to change their lifestyle,” Dr. Scott Chiesa of University College London told CNN. “What’s good for the arteries is good for the brain.”  The CNN article says that “the study’s findings have been met with cautious optimism by dementia organizations,” adding that, if the findings are confirmed, “they could vastly improve the ability to detect dementia in middle age.” Because the scans of the neck are simple, inexpensive and non-invasive, the authors of the study suggest the scans could become part of routine medical testing.  Then lifestyle changes – better diet, lower cholesterol, quitting smoking and a healthy exercise regimen – can hopefully improve arterial health and at least slow the advance of cognitive decline.

Care for Yourself and Make Good Plans!

People are living longer, and dementia cases will inevitably rise. By taking good care of yourself, you can potentially reduce your risk of developing dementia. It’s also essential for the sake of your family that you set up a proper strategy for your eventual care, a strategy which should become part of an over-arching retirement blueprint we call a LifePlan. A LifePlan from AgingOptions is the only retirement plan we know of that actual weaves together all the various strands of retirement – your financial strategy, your medical coverage, your housing options, your legal protection, and your family communication – into one integrated plan, instead of the typical piecemeal approach other planners often employ. A LifePlan will guide you as you build the secure and fruitful retirement you’ve hoped for.

We invite you to take a simple, no-obligation next step and join Rajiv Nagaich at one of our highly popular LifePlanning Seminars. We offer several of these free events almost every month, so you can click here for our current schedule and then select the date, time and location that works for you. Plan ahead today and experience greater peace of mind tomorrow, whatever the future may hold, with the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!

(originally reported at

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