Lowering blood pressure could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.
Combining hypertension medication with healthy lifestyle changes reduces at-risk people’s likelihood of developing cognitive decline and dementia by 15 percent, a landmark US study found today.
Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘There is robust evidence that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain and maintaining good vascular health is one of the key things people can do to reduce their risk of dementia.
‘As well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure, the best current evidence suggests that not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.’
Earlier this year US authorities changed the definition of high blood pressure from 140mmGH to 120mmGH, allowing millions more people to access medication to combat the problem.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the UK’s health body, is due to announce whether it will follow suit next year, which would make 14 million more people eligible for blood pressure lowering drugs.
Lowering blood pressure could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests (stock)
DOES SUGAR INCREASE A PERSON’S RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S?
Adding less than three teaspoons of sugar to your tea every day increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, research suggested in July 2018.
Sweetening food or drinks with just two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar makes people 54 per cent more likely to develop the condition, a study found.
Indulging in just one can of sugary soda a day increases the risk of dementia by 47 per cent compared to those who only consume such beverages around once every three months, the research adds.
Speaking of the findings, Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Too much sugar is linked to type 2 diabetes and previous research has identified type 2 diabetes as a risk factor for dementia.
‘This study backs up this evidence, suggesting that excess sugar may increase our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and all types of sugar – from fruit juice to lemonade – have the same impact.
‘By cutting down on the fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes, and eating a varied and balanced diet, we will be able to reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life.’
The researchers, from Columbia University, analysed 2,226 people who did not initially have dementia over around seven years.
At the start of the study, the participants completed questionnaires about whether they added sugar to their food or drinks.
Of the participants, 429 developed Alzheimer’s during the study.
How the research was carried out
The researchers, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine, North Carolina, analysed 9,361 adults with high blood pressure but not a diagnosis for diabetes, dementia or stroke. The participants had an average age of 67.
Some of the participants embarked on an intensive strategy to reduce their blood pressure to less than 120mmGh. The remainder received a standard care approach to lower it to under 140mmGh.
Both of these strategies included medication and lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure. The medication in both groups was prescribed with the aim of reaching the different blood-pressure goals.
The participants’ blood pressures were recorded at the start of the study and monthly for the first three months, followed by once every three months for around three years.
A separate study by the University of Pennsylvania carried out brain MRI scans on 673 people from the original trial.
‘There are things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia’
Results from the first study further suggest intensively lowering blood pressure reduces cognitive decline by 19 per cent but does not prevent dementia alone.
Chief Scientific Officer Dr Maria Carrillo from Alzheimer’s Association said: ‘This study shows more conclusively than ever before that there are things you can do – especially regarding cardiovascular disease risk factors – to reduce your risk of mild cognitive decline and dementia.’
Dr Doug Brown, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer’s Society, added: ‘We know stress is bad for us, and high blood-pressure has been linked to an increased risk of vascular dementia.
‘This study, which looked at the effect of lowering blood pressure beyond standard treatment guidelines, found that such treatment did not significantly reduce a person’s chances of developing dementia.
‘But, lowering blood pressure did reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, a condition where people have minor problems with their thinking.
‘The jury is still out on how much various risk factors increase your risk of developing dementia, but this study supports that what’s good for the heart is good for the head.’
Findings from the second study suggest intensively lowering blood pressure increases the brain’s volume, which declines in Alzheimer’s.
Both of the studies’ findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago.