Blood Pressure Control Reduces Risk of Dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment

July 25, 2018
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DETROIT – It is well established that controlling your blood pressure reduces your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes. Add to that list dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Preliminary research findings released today at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference showed that aggressive lowering of high blood pressure reduces the risk of combined mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, and dementia.

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, and many don’t even know it, according to the American Heart Association. High blood pressure, known medically as hypertension, is the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels at a level well above the normal level: 120 over 80.

“These are important findings, and shows another benefit for having your blood pressure under control,” says Kausik Umanath, M.D., a nephrologist and section head of Clinical Trials Research in the Division of Nephrology at Henry Ford, which enrolled 125 patients in the SPRINT Memory and Cognition IN Decreased Hypertension study led by the National Institutes of Health.

Henry Ford was the only Michigan hospital to participate in the national study, which examined whether reducing participants’ blood pressure could reduce their risk of developing dementia and/or MCI and reduce the volume of white matter lesions in the brain.More than 9,300 older adults (median age 68) with high blood pressure and no prior diagnosis of diabetes, dementia or stoke were studied between 2010 and 2018.

Marina Novikova, D.O., a Henry Ford behavioral neurologist, says the findings "could have very positive implications on cutting down the incidence of MCI and dementia in the population.”

“We had been advocating for tight blood pressure control for people with vascular MCI/dementia as it is a modifiable risk factor,” she says.

Participants were randomly enrolled in one of two study groups: One group received intensive treatment for targeting a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120 mm Hg; the control group received the standard of care treatment for targeting a goal of less than 140 mm Hg.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers: systolic, the upper number, and diastolic, the lower number.

Key findings:

  • The intensive treatment group had a 19 percent lower rate of mild cognitive impairment cases than the standard treatment group.
  • The intensive treatment group had a 15 percent lower rate of combined impairment and dementia than the standard treatment group.

“The take-home message is that older adults who have their blood pressure under control may be at less risk of developing memory loss and dementia as they age,” Dr. Umanath says. “For years, we’ve known that maintaining your blood pressure is good for the heart. Now we can say it’s good for the brain, too.”

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MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / David.Olejarz@hfhs.org / 313.874.4094