Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia are the two most common types of dementia with the former being the most predominant. It is evident that oxidative stress, an environment where pro-oxidant species overwhelm antioxidant species, is involved in the pathogenesis of both forms of dementia. An increased level of reactive oxygen species in the vasculature, reduced nitric oxide bioavailability, and endothelial dysfunction leading to vascular disease is associated with vascular dementia. In Alzheimer's disease, an increased amount of amyloid-beta peptide induces elevated reactive oxygen species production thereby causing neuronal cell death and damage. The recent observation that increased atherosclerotic plaque formation is present in the main artery to the brain in Alzheimer's disease, coupled with the association of vascular risk factors with this disease, suggests a link between these two dementias. This review will argue that Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia are two extremes of one disease, thus assuming a hypothesis where the clinical conditions referred to as dementia are part of a continuum. We propose that the majority of cases share a vascular pathology and that oxidative stress is central to this common pathology.
- vascular dysfunction
- reactive oxygen species