In addition to its well-known role in energy metabolism in the body, insulin is a vasoactive hormone that regulates peripheral and cerebral blood flow and neuronal function. Vascular and metabolic dysfunctions are emerging risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and age-related dementias, and recent evidence suggests that the two pathways are constitutive and interrelated. As a result, an emphasis on correcting metabolic disorders is emerging as an important strategy in the treatment and prevention of age-related cognitive impairment and AD. We review the evidence regarding the unique and interactive effects of vascular and metabolic disorders in pathological brain aging, with special consideration of the role of insulin dysregulation in promoting AD pathologic processes and vascular brain injury. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Vascular Contributions to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia edited by M. Paul Murphy, Roderick A. Corriveau and Donna M. Wilcock.
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