Hypertension and dementia risk

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 10th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Doctors disagree about how to treat high blood pressure in very old patients.

Medication that lowers blood pressure can help prevent stroke and heart attack. But some research suggests it also promotes dementia.

A study reported recently in the journal Stroke is virtually the first to investigate this issue among patients in the relevant age group.

Researchers examined about thirteen-hundred men in the Honolulu Heart Program, which has tracked the health of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii since 1965.

By evaluating cognitive function and screening for dementia, researchers showed blood-pressure medication helped support mental health. And the longer the medication was used, the better the results.

Men in the study averaged seventy-seven years old. Some had developed high blood pressure in middle age, but not all of them had treated it.

Patients who’d been taking medication less than five years enjoyed a six-percent lower incidence of dementia than those with untreated high blood pressure.

Men taking medication five to twelve years cut their chances of dementia in half. And patients who’d been taking meds more than twelve years had the same dementia risk as those with normal blood pressure.

Why does the medication help? Because it prevents damage that occurs when blood vessels in the brain are subjected to constant high pressures.

Doctors say the best way to keep those arteries working properly is to maintain a healthy weight.

That’s some very old advice. But it’s remained popular because it’s helped so many people live to a very old age.