The Unraveling: Cardiac and Musculoskeletal Defects and Their Role in Common Alzheimer Disease Morbidity and Mortality

Vidyani Suryadevara, Michael Klüppel, Federica del Monte, Monte S. Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by deterioration of cognitive capabilities with an estimated 44 million individuals worldwide living with it. Beyond memory deficits, the most common AD co-morbidities include swallowing defects (muscle), fractures (bone, muscle), and heart failure. The underlying causes of these co-morbidities and their role in AD pathophysiology are currently unknown. This review is the first to summarize the emerging picture of the cardiac and musculoskeletal deficits in human AD. We present the involvement of the heart, characterized by diastolic heart failure, the presence of amyloid deposits, and electrophysiological changes, compared with age-matched control subjects. The characteristic musculoskeletal defects in AD come from recent clinical studies and include potential underlying mechanisms (bone) in animal models. These studies detail a primary muscle weakness (without a loss of muscle mass) in patients with mild cognitive impairment, with progression of cognitive impairment to AD associating with ongoing muscle weakness and the onset of muscle atrophy. We conclude by reviewing the loss of bone density in patients with AD, paralleling the increase in fracture and fall risk in specific populations. These studies paint AD as a systemic disease in broad strokes, which may help elucidate AD pathophysiology and to allow for new ways of thinking about therapeutic interventions, diagnostic biomarkers, and the pathogenesis of this multidisciplinary disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1609-1621
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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