Study: Calcified plaques in key arteries linked to strokes, dementia

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Calcified plaque buildup in key areas of the body's circulatory system — outside of the brain — could contribute to increased risk for stroke and dementia, new study results assert.

In studying CT scans of 885 people with an average age of 67, investigators from the Netherlands looked for signs of calcification in the coronary arteries, the aortic arch, and the extracranial and intracranial carotid arteries. They also checked MRI scans of study subjects to look for signs of stroke, brain bleeds and white matter lesions, according to the study.

They found that calcium buildup in those four critical arterial areas was associated with white matter lesions and evidence of small strokes.

"These subclinical brain changes, apparent on MRI, do not necessarily cause symptoms right away but are frequently seen in patients with stroke or dementia and over the long term may be associated with worse cognitive performance," said study author Meike W. Vernooij, M.D., Ph.D.

The study was published Aug. 25 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

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