Controlling high blood pressure later in life slashes the risk of dementia, according to a study in the European Heart Journal. While other trials have investigated the health benefits of lowering high blood pressure, not many have looked at its role in dementia.
This global study involved more than 28,000 participants, providing the strongest case to date that controlling hypertension with age cuts dementia risk. Dementia is quickly becoming a worldwide epidemic — estimates show that it affects an estimated 50 million people.
“Given population aging and the substantial costs of caring for people with dementia, even a small reduction could have a considerable global impact,” said study author Dr. Ruth Peters, associate professor at UNSW Sydney and program lead for dementia in The George Institute’s Global Brain Health Initiative. “Our study suggests that using readily available treatments to lower blood pressure is currently one of our ‘best bets’ to tackle this insidious disease.”
To determine the connection between blood pressure and dementia, researchers analyzed five double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trials that used different blood pressure-lowering therapies and followed patients until the onset of dementia.
The study included subjects from 20 countries with an average age of 69 and a history of high blood pressure. Across these studies, the mid-range of follow-up was just over four years.
“We found there was a significant effect of treatment in lowering the odds of dementia associated with a sustained reduction in blood pressure in this older population,” said Dr. Peters. “Our results imply a broadly linear relationship between blood pressure reduction and lower risk of dementia, regardless of which type of treatment was used.”
Further research is needed to determine if well-controlled hypertension and/or earlier treatment of high blood pressure affect dementia risk.
The first single-stage individual patient data meta-analysis from randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials provides evidence to support the benefits of antihypertensive treatment in late-mid and later life to lower the risk of dementia. Questions remain as to the potential for additional BP lowering in those with already well-controlled hypertension and antihypertensive treatment commenced earlier in the life course to reduce the long-term risk of dementia.