Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] level is a newly established vascular risk factor which has been suggested to play a role in dementia. However, the majority of Lp(a) cell-to-cell interactions are mediated by its specific apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] moiety. This suggests that the size polymorphism of apo(a) may be of importance in conveying the Lp(a)-related risk. Specifically, we postulated that variation in apo(a) isoform size may lead to increased risk of vascular dementia (VaD), Alzheimer's disease (AD), stroke, or all three of them. Under a case-control design we compared Lp(a) plasma levels and the distribution of apo(a) phenotypes in groups of subjects consisting of 50 VaD patients, 162 sporadic AD patients, 95 non-demented stroke patients (NDS), and 105 normal controls. The prevalence of small-sized apo(a) isoforms in the VaD group was significantly higher than that in the stroke and normal control groups, with an odds ratio of 5.29 (95% CI 2.24-12.49, p = 0.0001) for the development of VaD for individuals with at least one apo(a) isoform of low molecular weight (LMW). Furthermore, the possession of at least one small-sized apo(a) isoform significantly increased the risk of AD to 1.92 (95% CI 1.02-3.61, p = 0.0434). Our results demonstrate that possession of at least one LMW apo(a) isoform is significantly associated with dementia and specifically offer new evidence of a strong association between the lipoprotein system and post-stroke dementia. Copyright © 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.