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Could lowering your blood pressure also lower your risk for dementia?

January 31, 2019
illustration showing memories flowing out of head

A study out this week suggests that when people who have high blood pressure get intensive treatment to lower it, they may also lower their risk of developing minor memory problems that can lead to dementia.

Immediate caveat: The possible link wasn’t clear enough to be considered statistically significant.

But people are so eager for anything that might help ward off dementia, a condition that affects millions of Americans, that the study is seen as encouraging.

Daniel Lackland certainly views it that way. He’s a professor in the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina who holds a doctor of public health degree. He also has extensive expertise in the study of hypertension and dementia.

Q: In simple terms, what did the study find?

A: The results of the study showed better reduction of the risks of dementia with blood pressure lowering. Basically the individuals with high blood pressure who took their medications and lowered their blood pressure the greatest saw lower risks of dementia.

Q: Why weren’t the results statistically significant?

A: The sample size was not large enough for assessing this outcome.

Q: You’re studying blood pressure and dementia at MUSC. What are you focusing on and what have you found so far?

A: We have found that populations with the highest risks of stroke also have the highest risks of dementia. High blood pressure seems to be the common risk factor.

Q: Should people worried about dementia ask their doctor about getting intensive treatment for hypertension, if they have high blood pressure?

A: The new guidelines for hypertension management and treatment include the lower blood pressure goals. So all patients with hypertension should take their medications as prescribed and include lifestyle modifications of reduction of salt intake, exercise, weight management and not smoking. This comprehensive approach can lower blood pressure levels to the optimum levels with lower risks of dementia and stroke.

 Q: Are there risks associated with being really aggressive in treating hypertension? As with all treatments, sometimes there are side effects.

A: Any such effects should be discussed with your doctor, who will also be monitoring the treatments with laboratory tests.

Q: What’s next in terms of research in this area?

A: The association of blood pressure and dementia is relatively new, but very strong and consistent among studies. Lower blood pressures are associated with lower dementia risksFuture and ongoing research will identify specific treatments to maximize the benefits of blood pressure reduction to lower the risks of dementia.

About the Author

Helen Adams

Keywords: Research