January 01, 2021

Managing blood pressure may reduce dementia risk

There are several strategies that might reduce the risk of dementia — a condition that can lead to confusion, memory loss and personality changes — though nothing can clearly prevent it.

One of those measures is managing high blood pressure, as demonstrated in a May 2020 research review in JAMA. It found that lowering blood pressure in midlife or later was associated with a modestly decreased risk of future dementia — such as Alzheimer's disease — or other, less severe forms of memory and thinking problems.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor for disrupted or blocked blood flow to the brain, such as during a stroke. Reduced blood flow can cause damage or death of brain cells, leading to memory and thinking problems.

The researchers looked at data from 12 randomized clinical trials. They found that 7% of people treated with blood pressure lowering agents developed dementia or cognitive impairment in the follow-up period — which averaged 4.1 years — compared with 7.5% of people in the control groups. This is a small decrease, but it could translate to benefits in lowering the dementia burden in the population as a whole.

Aside from any potential dementia benefits, controlling high blood pressure is very important for overall health — including reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.