Edinburgh Imaging

16 Aug 18. Age UK article

Staying Sharp is a 'one-stop-shop' on the Age UK website where you can find out what you need to know about thinking skills in later life. Our Professor Joanna Wardlaw, writes about the risks of Small Vessel Disease, and how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Full article on Age UK.


What are small vessels?

Blood circulates through the brain via a complex network of blood vessels. The further into the brain, the smaller the blood vessels become – these tiny capillaries are known as small vessels, and the brain has about 400 miles of small vessels.


What is small vessel disease?

In some people, the small vessels become damaged, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This is known as small vessel disease. This, in turn, leads to damage to the brain itself.


Research findings

As people get older, it is common to find that the brain develops little scars. Research has found that the little scars are caused by small vessel disease and that the more scars we have, the higher the risk of the problems associated with them.

Therefore, if we address the causes of small vessel disease, we will be reducing the risk of developing potentially damaging little scars in the brain, in turn protecting our brain health and thinking skills.

Professor Joanna Wardlaw’s advice:
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle: keep your weight down, take regular exercise, avoid smoking and eat a healthy diet without adding salt.
  • Get your blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly, and if you think you may have high blood pressure or symptoms of diabetes.
  • The brain and body are very closely connected, so improvements in your general health are likely to improve your brain health.