Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Link between Alzheimer's and chronic illnesses?

A University of Pittsburgh study suggests that chronic disorders such as heart disease contribute to mental slowdown, including conditions like Alzheimer's syndrome. The link between the two has to do with a chemical that the body's immune system releases during illness:

The immune system chemical in question is interleukin-6, or IL-6. Immune cells release IL-6 and other so-called cytokines when the body is battling the flu or an infection, says University of Pittsburgh researcher Anna Marsland. Those cytokines tell the brain to slow down, and that helps the body heal. But as people enter midlife, they start to develop chronic disorders such as heart disease that keep cytokines elevated all the time. Marsland's research suggests that a 24/7 elevation in these cytokines can lead to sluggish performance on thinking and memory tests.

—Mellow Monk

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