Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

National Institutes of Health to study high blood pressure's link to dementia

If the cardiologist's warnings don't scare you, consider this: Controlling blood pressure just might be the best protection yet known against dementia.

In a flurry of new research, scientists scanned people's brains to show hypertension fuels a kind of scarring linked to later development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. Those scars can start building up in middle age, decades before memory problems will appear.

The evidence is such that the National Institutes of Health soon will begin enrolling thousands of hypertension sufferers in a major study to see if aggressive treatment better protects their brains.

Age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia that affect about one in eight people 65 or older. Scientists have long noticed that some of the same triggers for heart disease — high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes — seem to increase the risk of dementia, too. But for years, they thought that link was with "vascular dementia," memory problems usually linked to small strokes, and not the scarier classic Alzheimer's disease.

Now those lines are blurring as specialists realize that many if not most patients have a mix of the two dementias. Somehow, factors like hypertension — blood pressure readings of 140 over 90 or higher — that weaken arteries also seem to spur Alzheimer's diseaselike processes.

One suspect: scarring known as white matter lesions. White matter acts as the brain's telephone network, a system of axons, or nerve fibers, that allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Recent studies have shown that elevated blood pressure can damage the tiny blood vessels that nourish white matter, interrupting those signals.

The NIH in a few months will begin enrolling 7,500 hypertension patients age 55 and older around the country. The test: whether aggressive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure below 120 — what's considered normal — will prove healthier than today's guidelines that urge getting it below 140, or 130 for diabetics.

The main focus is on heart and kidney health. But all participants will be screened for dementia, and a subset will undergo repeated cognitive testing and MRI scans to tell if lowering blood pressure also protects against dementia.

National Institutes of Health to study high blood pressure's link to dementia 01/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 5:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote

    Blogs

    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to

    Business

    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

    Blogs

    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.