Worried About Memory Loss? Cut Your Blood Pressure

When it comes to blood pressure, lower is better for the brain as well as the heart, according to the results of a large government-funded study known as SPRINT.

High blood pressure is a problem for about 100 million Americans, roughly half of all U.S. adults.

Even modestly higher blood pressure in midlife is a major reason for memory loss. Recent studies have shown that having systolic blood pressure — the top number — over 130 by age 50 raises a person’s odds of getting dementia by about 50%, compared with someone without high blood pressure at the same age.

The good news is that aggressively lowering high blood pressure to a goal of 120/80 — the definition of normal — may trim the risk of getting mild cognitive impairment, the kind of thinking and memory changes that lead to dementia, by about 15%. That’s compared with people with higher blood pressures, according to new research presented this week at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago.

Overall, intensive blood pressure treatment cut a person’s lifetime chance of having mild cognitive impairment by about 1%, the study found. That may sound small, but it would make an important difference for public health, the study authors say.

Even better, it doesn’t take long to see that benefit. Patients in the study were treated for an average of about 3 years, and followed for about 5.