Dementia finding ‘potentially groundbreaking’: study

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A study to determine the effects of low blood pressure on heart health has yielded a startling result for dementia research, with scientists describing the finding as “potentially groundbreaking”.

Participants with heart problems who were treated with drugs to return their blood pressure to the ideal range were found to be 15 per cent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is regarded as a ‘gateway’ to dementia, according to a report in Time magazine

The SPRINT Memory and Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (SPRINT-MIND) study involved more than 9300 people with an average age of 68 who had heart disease or were at greater risk of developing heart disease. Their blood pressure was lowered to either less than 120mmHg systolic, which is considered ideal, or 140mmHg systolic, which is categorised as high. (Current guidelines, revised after the study began, recommend that the upper number be kept under 130mmHg.)

People who lowered their blood pressure to under 120mmHg lowered their risk of both mild cognitive impairment – the gateway to dementia – or probable dementia by 15 per cent, compared to people who lowered their blood pressure to 140mmHg, according to the report.

“Controlling blood pressure is not only good for the heart but good for the brain,” says Dr Jeff Williamson, chief of geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, and one of the lead investigators in the trial.

“This is the first intervention of any kind that has been proven in a randomised controlled trial to reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment.”

In previous studies, it was found that people with high blood pressure were more likely to develop dementia, however the reverse had not been tested.

Participants in the study were treated for only three years by which time it was obvious that lower blood pressure protected against heart disease.

However, study authors say it is the first time scientists have found something that can lower MCI risk in a rigorous, randomised controlled trial.

“This provides great encouragement for people to say, ‘Yes, make sure your blood pressure is well controlled’, because right now it’s one of the things you can do to prevent mild cognitive impairment,” said Dr Williamson. “And this opens the door to testing more interventions.”

Dr Williamson said that recent trials of new drugs that doctors had hoped could slow or even reverse the disease had been disappointing and that the blood pressure finding was “potentially groundbreaking”.

Explaining further, he said: “I like to illustrate the idea to my patients with the analogy of air pressure in our tyres. You don’t want to have too low or too high pressure or you will damage the tyres. The same goes for blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can damage the walls of very fragile arteries that deliver blood to the brain and other organs. And that can produce some of the things we see associated with dementia – inflammation and small strokes.”

Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer Maria Carillo described the finding as “a very big deal”. “Now we have evidence that lowering blood pressure is linked to brain health as well. Before, it was strongly suggested, but now we know from a study that it can make a difference.”

A study published earlier in Neurology supports the SPRINT-MIND finding. In that study, researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago found that people with higher blood pressure tended to have more brain lesions, or areas of dead brain tissue, as well as tangles of tau protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Are you hopeful that the volume of research worldwide is making progress? Do you know whether your blood pressure is in the healthy range?

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Written by Janelle Ward

19 Comments

Total Comments: 19
  1. 0
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    Gosh YLC you have so many advertisements the article is virtually unreadable.

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      Install Adblocker Rosret and it will keep the ads from annoying you. After it is installed you’ll see a red ABP octagon in the top right corner of your browser and the number shown in grey is the number of ads blocked per session.

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      I have adblock, been using it for years to save my limited data, but does not stop all the pop-ups and the other stuff that YLC put up to get in the way of the comments.

  2. 0
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    Whilst 15% is in the right direction, its seems hardly ‘ground breaking’. Now if it was 75% or even 50%, it would be something to crow about.!!

  3. 0
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    Not quite as ground breaking as claimed.
    The links between heart health, high blood pressure and Vascular Dementia are hardly new and the progression from mild cognitive impairment to any form of dementia is far from certain.
    The study claims to have implications for Alzheimer’s type Dementia rather than just Vascular type Dementia. While the 2 types of dementia may often coexist – autopsy is still the only way to know for sure what type of dementia someone was suffering from.

  4. 0
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    I have a natural low blood pressure, as did my grandmother who lived to 105 & 11 months. So if I get stressed out, then I am probably just in the normal range. My stresses go into my hair. Gone grey a lot earlier than people my age. i won on the swing and lose on the roundabout. LOL

  5. 0
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    Any good reliable research is most welcome… aside from the obvious debilitating effects on an individual and their family …
    This disease can/will have a crippling effect on the economy.
    We MUST put everything we can into understanding, treating, managing and eradicating this debilitating disease.

    And yes the adds are really annoying … especially the latest one in the lower left side of articles… I understand the finances of it all … But enough is enough.

    Thanks Autumn Oz … I will install Addblocker.

  6. 0
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    I am 77 and have had low blood pressure for as long as I remember (av. 95/56/71). It sometimes causes fainting spells.
    And guess what? Three years ago I was diagnosed with MCI. How does this work then?

  7. 0
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    Although more research is necessary, exercise has also been shown to create biochemical changes that improve the brain’s environment to mend nerve cell health. In a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, exercise stimulated the growth of new nerve cells in the brain and reduced memory problems. In addition, plaques and several proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), also improved in these mice.

    The lesson learned was that it is not enough just to turn on the birth of new nerve cells, you must simultaneously ‘clean up’ the environment in which they are being born to make sure the new cells survive and thrive. Exercise can achieve that.

    But its so much easier to pop a pill right?

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      My dad has late stages vascula dementia as mentioned above in my reply to Christina’s comment & he was extremely fit all of his life (still using the chainsaw, & axe, woodcutting etc) til he went in to full time care at 84 so either he is an exeption to this theory also or the theory is meaningless (btw most of his fellow resis are from similar background-farming etc & were also rather fit pre dementia days so these studies & theories do little to convince me with their findings, but I will go along with exercising myself just in case there’s a remote chance they are onto something there!

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      Note I did say right at the start that much more research is needed and of course with humans not just mice. But the research there is with exercise is very promising. I suspect it is the type of exercise that will prove important rather than just a general level of fitness.

  8. 0
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    Too much animal proteins cause rises in blood pressure. Eat more veg to give you more fiber and nutrition. I would also suspect that heart and blood pressure pills contribute to dementia, I think that is what done my dad in years ago.

  9. 0
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    With the incompetent Lieberal morons currently in charge (but not for much longer), thinking people’s blood pressure must be through the roof! Any ensuing dementia would dumb them down to the intellectual level of the typical LNP supporter.

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      The Government of any hue is not responsible for an individual’s blood-pressure. You cannot blame this or any other Government for what is largely a lifestyle, diet and in some cases genetic condition.

  10. 0
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    Knows-a-lot, you are a twit. How could any Gov be responsible for blood pressure. You don’t even know how to spell Liberal.

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