(Natural News) As you age, your thinking, reasoning, and remembering tend to decline – which is normal. However, when those cognitive functions decline much more significantly than what occurs with normal aging, it could be a sign of dementia. Because of the complications dementia can bring to a person’s life, researchers continue to investigate various health approaches to prevent or slow its progression. A recent study led by researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine suggested that reducing blood pressure in older people may greatly reduce their risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a precursor of early dementia. It is a decline in memory and thinking skills that is greater than expected with normal aging.
With the objective of evaluating the effect of intensive blood pressure management on the risk of dementia, this randomized clinical trial studied 9,361 adults with hypertension but without diabetes or a history of stroke. Previous observational studies found that hypertension, which affects more than 50 percent of people aged 50 to 65 and more than 75 percent of those older than 65, is a potentially modifiable risk factor for MCI and dementia.
The researchers randomly assigned the participants to either an intensive or standard treatment. Participants in the intensive treatment group had a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), while those in the standard treatment group aimed for less than 140 mmHg systolic blood pressure. Then, the researchers classified them after five years as having no cognitive impairment, MCI or probable dementia. The results revealed that just three years of lowering blood pressure caused significant improvements both in heart health and brain health. The researchers published their findings in JAMA.
More on high blood pressure and brain health
An earlier study published in the journal Neurology also looked at the link between blood pressure and brain health. This study showed that having high blood pressure as an older adult indicates an increase in one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center investigated the link between blood pressure in later life and signs of brain aging, such as plaques and tangles, associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, they looked for infarcts, areas of dead tissue caused by a blockage of blood supply in the brain. These lesions can increase with age, often go undetected, and can result in a stroke.
For the study, the researchers followed nearly 1,300 people until their death, averaging eight years from the start of the study. Two-thirds of the participants had a history of high blood pressure, and 87 percent were taking drugs to manage hypertension. Every year, the researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure.
When the researchers examined the brains of the dead participants, nearly 50 percent of them had at least one infarct. They found that people who had elevated blood pressure – both systolic and diastolic – were more likely to have at least one brain lesion. For every standard deviation above the group’s average systolic blood pressure, there was a 46 percent greater chance of having one or more brain lesion – that is equivalent to about nine years of brain aging. Likewise, there was a 28 percent higher risk of developing at least one lesion for every one standard deviation above the group average.
Aging may be inevitable, but dementia doesn’t have to be. Learn about natural ways to protect your brain from dementia at Dementia.news.