People with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to have spontaneous blood clots or debris (called cerebral emboli) in their brains, new research showed.
Those suffering vascular dementia, where blood vessels narrow and parts of the brain noticeably die, are also about three times as likely to have the clots.
Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia make up 80% of all cases of dementia.
Charles McCollum, professor of surgery at the Academic Surgery Unit at the University of Manchester, said he hoped his study would pave the way for new treatments.
In the research, published online by the British Medical Journal, 170 patients with dementia (85 with Alzheimer’s and 85 with vascular dementia) were compared to two groups of 75 people acting as controls.
Spontaneous cerebral emboli was found in 40% of patients with Alzheimer’s and 37% of those with vascular dementia after just one hour of monitoring. This compared to 14% of patients in each control group.
Prof McCollum said: “Emboli may be made up of blood cells that have accumulated or it might be crystals of cholesterol.”
He said one way they may alter the blood supply is through having an inflammatory action.
The research found no link between cardiovascular disease and a build up of emboli in dementia patients. Also, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease were the same for both the dementia patients and the controls, according to the research.
Prof McCollum said research was beginning on treatments to stop emboli reaching the brain.
The Alzheimer’s Society, which part-funded his study, will help fund this research.