The health of our hearts is vital for supplying brain cells with energy and oxygen. Poor heart health, or carrying the Alzheimer's risk gene APOE4, can increase risk of dementia.
57-year-old Julie Thomas, a Nursing Assistant from Oxford, whose mother has dementia, recently signed up for Alzheimer’s Society’s annual fundraising event, Memory Walk, in Oxford, to raise vital funds for research and services. Alzheimer’s Society took Julie to meet Dr Suri, Alzheimer's Society Research Fellow, to learn more about the local research taking place.
I am using a new brain scanning technique to understand how and at what stage poor cardiovascular health can affect how we regulate the blood supply to the brain and how this in turn affects memory.
Dr Sana Suri, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
“The aim of my study is to find out how cardiovascular conditions affect cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) – the ability that our body has to increase blood supply to the brain when it needs more energy and oxygen - and how this impacts on memory. CVR has not been well studied in humans. This is because the technology needed to make these studies possible has not been available," says Dr Suri.
Dr Suri’s project at the University of Oxford involves 140 people from the UK Whitehall II Imaging cohort – a group of people who have already had annual heart health tests since they were 40 years old.
At 70 years of age they also had brain scans and memory and thinking assessments. With this unique group of people Dr Suri will investigate how brain health in older age is linked to heart health in middle age.
This study could produce a reliable new method of selecting people for clinical trials to prevent dementia. People with a poor ability to increase blood supply to the brain when it is needed could be included into trials for exercise intervention to reduce dementia risk.
Both Julie and Dr Suri are taking part in Oxford Memory Walk.