Lowering high blood pressure halves Alzheimers risk

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Lowering high blood pressure halves Alzheimer's risk
28/01/2009

Successfully treating and lowering high blood pressure can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer's disease by up to 50%.

Dr Michael Valenzuela, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales, Australia, has analysed 10 years of studies into dementia and blood pressure from around the world. He found a clear link between blood pressure levels and the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

The studies showed that the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia was halved for people who were taking blood pressure medication.

“After 100 years of research into clinical risk reduction for dementia, we finally seem to have found an effective medical weapon – that of blood pressure tablets,” Dr Valenzuela says. “So the number one thing a person can do to help prevent dementia is to have your blood pressure checked regularly and if it is high take the right measures to bring it under control."

Central to this discovery were the results of the European SYST-EUR trial (Systolic Hypertension in Europe Trial). This study involved 4,695 individuals over the age of 60 with high blood pressure. It showed a statistically significant reduction of up to 50% in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. This finding was supported by the results of a separate follow-up report four years later. Emerging dementia research in the United States and Europe, and Australia also appear to confirm the finding.

Dr Valenzuela believes that there is a fundamental link between high blood pressure and dementia. His theory is that high blood pressure reduces the blood flow to the memory part of the brain. This reduction means that the brain cells don't receive enough nutrients and don't have their waste products removed quickly enough.

These problems could then lead to the tiny blood vessels in the hippocampus (the memory region) breaking and bleeding. This could set off the development of Alzheimer's disease.

To help yourself avoid dementia and Alzheimer's in later life, it appears that the best advice is to follow the same healthy lifestyle and eating choices as for avoiding heart attack and stroke:

  • keep your blood pressure under control
  • eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • eat no more than 6g of salt a day
  • be physically active for at least 30 minutes five times a week
  • lose weight if you need to
  • don't exceed your weekly alcohol limits

Reference:

Alzheimer's Australia. Press Release. Latest Medical Finding - Reducing high blood pressure decreases incidence of dementia. 27/01/2009. http://www.alzheimers.org.au/upload/MR27Jan09.pdf


Topics: Research, Medicines, Lifestyle, High blood pressure


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