Heart health is linked with brain health, and a new study finds that addressing one key heart health metric could substantially lower your risk of developing dementia.
Research shared at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023, held earlier this month in Philadelphia, investigated how an intensive program aimed at lowering blood pressure impacted dementia risk in adults with high blood pressure in rural China. The findings showed that those enrolled in the program had a 15% lower risk of developing dementia, in addition to seeing their systolic pressure go down by an average of 22 mm Hg. This is in line with other research on the topic.
Dr. Jiang He, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Tulane University, says, “In the absence of curative treatments, the primary prevention of dementia through the reduction of risk factors has become a public health priority. Previous observational studies have found that individuals with untreated hypertension have a 42% increased risk of dementia compared with healthy adults, while individuals with treated hypertension have no significant increase in dementia risk compared with healthy adults.”
The current study investigated dementia risk between patients who took part in a four-year blood pressure intervention program and those who received typical care. The research involved roughly 34,000 adults aged 40 and older from 326 villages, who had either untreated blood pressure of at least 140/90 mm Hg, or at least 130/80 mm Hg in those already taking blood pressure medication or were at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Half of the villages taking part were assigned to the blood pressure intervention program, while the rest were assigned to usual care.
After four years, neurologists conducted cognitive tests and on all participants. They found that those in the intervention group had a 15% lower risk of dementia and a 16% lower risk of memory impairment compared to the usual care group. They also had an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 22 mm Hg and a 9 mm Hg decrease in diastolic blood pressure. Overall, their average reading was 128/73 mm Hg, compared with 148/81 mm Hg in their counterparts.
Dr. He says, “This is the first, large, randomized trial to demonstrate that lowering blood pressure is effective in reducing the risk of dementia in people with high blood pressure. These findings emphasize the importance of widespread adoption of more intensive blood-pressure control to reduce the global burden of dementia.”
The researchers acknowledged limitations, including that cognitive tests were not given before the study period. They also say that going forward, more research is needed, including into whether lowering blood pressure would be helpful for high-risk patients who don’t have high blood pressure.
You can read more on the study here.