Fight Aging! blog noted some recent research that suggests that cognitive decline in the elderly may be due to the same types of vascular deterioration that play a role in heart disease.
‘Age-related deterioration in blood vessels and the broader cardiovascular system generates damage in the brain. Blood vessel walls are elastic, a property that depends on the molecular structure of the proteins making up the extracellular matrix in that tissue. This structure is progressively degraded by the presence of sugary metabolic waste known as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which leads to the formation of cross-links between proteins and a consequent loss of elasticity. Stiffening of blood vessels causes hypertension and many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved overlap with those that speed the progression of atherosclerosis, a condition in which blood vessel walls become sources of chronic inflammation and are remodeled into fatty deposits by abnormal cellular activity. All of this causes a rising number of structural failures in the small blood vessels of the brain. Each one is effectively a tiny, unnoticed stroke, killing cells in a minuscule area of the brain. This harm adds up over time and is one of the contributing causes of age-related cognitive impairment.
A recently published paper suggests that more of the age-related changes observed in the brain may be due to vascular degeneration than previously thought. If so this implies that research aimed at removing cross-links has a greater importance, as do efforts to block the very early causes of atherosclerosis, such as the generation of oxidized lipids due to mitochondrial DNA damage.‘