BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients present high variability in the rate of cognitive decline. Despite the wide knowledge on factors influencing dementia risk, little is known on what accounts for AD progression. Previous studies on this topic have mainly analyzed each factor separately without taking into account the interaction between genetic and non-genetic factors.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study is to evaluate the role of demographic, clinical, therapeutic, and genetic factors and their interaction on cognitive decline among newly diagnosed AD patients.
METHODS: We retrospectively selected 160 AD patients diagnosed at the Neurology Unit of Careggi University Hospital of Florence. We evaluated the occurrence of rapid cognitive changes defined as the worsening of more than four points at the Mini-Mental State Examination after 2-year follow up period.
RESULTS: Among the 160 AD patients, 50% presented rapid disease progression. Extrapyramidal signs at disease onset were predictors of worse outcome (OR 2.2), especially among Apolipoprotein E (APOE) ɛ4 allele carriers, while the presence of family history for dementia decreased the risk of rapid progression by about 50%. Higher educated ɛ4-carriers showed a slower AD progression. We identified the chronic use of aspirin as potential secondary preventative strategy for the non ɛ4-carriers.
CONCLUSION: At dementia onset, some clinical and demographic data can be predictors of future progression. The outcomes of the present study support the already hypothesized interaction between genetic and non-genetic factors during disease course and suggest genetic-based approaches.