Intensive treatment to lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients may help reduce risk for mild cognitive impairment, which often progresses to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
In the study called Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, researchers looked at the data of more than 9,000 people, who were more than 50 years old and had elevated blood pressure.
They found those who lowered their blood pressure to a top reading of 120 instead of 140 were 19 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, a condition marked by loss of memory and brain processing power.
Researchers found that lowering blood pressure can help memory and thinking problems, offering hope that it is possible to lower rates of mental decline later in life.
Blood Pressure And Health
High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for a range of health problems, which include stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. Research also showed it may increase risk for dementia.
Intensive lowering of blood pressure has long been known to benefit individuals with increased risk for heart disease.
The findings of the new study published in JAMA on Jan. 28 provided evidence that such intervention can also help brain health.
The study involved participants with high blood pressure, a condition that affects more than 75 percent of people who are over 65 years old.
This means lowering blood pressure levels could benefit a large number of people by slashing their risk not only for heart problems and other physical health issues, but also for cognitive decline.
New Blood Pressure Guidelines
Last year, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association issued new guidelines that lowered the scale for high blood pressure from 140 to 130.
Study researcher Jeff Williamson, from Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, urged individuals whose BP is above 130 systolic to talk to their doctor about lowering blood pressure.
"MCI is simply the earliest form of dementia," Williamson said. "For anyone whose blood pressure is over 130 or looking to potentially prevent losing memory or thinking skills this is something you can do."