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Imaging Vascular Disease and Amyloid in the Aging Brain: Implications for Treatment.

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Vascular risk factors (e.g. hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetes) are well known risk factors for Alzheimer' disease. These vascular risk factors lead to vascular brain injuries, which also increase the likelihood of dementia. The advent of amyloid PET imaging has helped establish that vascular risk factors also lead to Alzheimer's disease via pathways that are independent from vascular brain injuries, at least, when vascular brain injuries are measured as white matter lesions and infarcts. While vascular brain injuries (white matter lesions and infarcts) do not seem to influence amyloid pathology, some evidence from amyloid imaging suggests that increased vascular risk is related to increased amyloid burden. Furthermore, while vascular brain injuries and amyloid have an additive and independent impact on brain integrity, vascular risk factors might potentiate the impact of amyloid on cortical thickness on brain regions vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease. New research should further explore and confirm, or refute, possible interactions between amyloid and vascular risk factors on brain integrity and cognition. Neuroimaging tools used to assess vascular brain integrity should also be expanded. Measuring cortical blood flow or damage to the capillary system might, for instance, give insight about how vascular risk factors can be associated to amyloid burden and impact. These findings also stress the need for monitoring vascular risk factors in midlife as a strategy for Alzheimer's disease prevention.

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