A recent meta-analysis published in JAMA Network Open has found that treating high blood pressure in older adults can reduce their risk of developing dementia. The analysis examined data from 17 previous studies, which included over 34,000 community-dwelling adults aged 60 to 110 in the U.S. and 14 other countries. The results showed that older adults with untreated high blood pressure were 42% more likely to develop dementia compared to healthy older adults. Even among 70- and 80-year-olds, the risk remained significant.
These findings add to the growing body of evidence that suggests a strong connection between heart health and brain health. According to Dr. Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, understanding how the vascular system impacts diseases within the brain and heart is crucial in our understanding of dementia.
The study also found that older adults with treated high blood pressure had a lower risk of dementia compared to those with untreated hypertension. There was no statistical difference in dementia risk between the group with treated high blood pressure and the healthy older adults. The results were consistent across different races and sexes.
While the study provides valuable insights, it does have some limitations. The researchers did not have information on the specific medications used to treat high blood pressure, and they also did not have data on whether people were successfully managing their blood pressure with medication. It is important to note that how high blood pressure is treated may vary among individuals, depending on factors such as other health conditions.
Dr. Guy L. Mintz, Director of Cardiovascular Health & Lipidology at Northwell Health's Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital, emphasized the importance of successfully managing blood pressure to reach a target number. He also highlighted the need for physicians to closely monitor medication side effects in older patients.
The study's findings underscore the importance of treating high blood pressure in patients, regardless of their age. While older patients may be at a higher risk of medication side effects, the benefits of lowering high blood pressure, such as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, outweigh these risks. It is crucial for healthcare professionals to work closely with older patients to control their high blood pressure and monitor any potential side effects.
In conclusion, this study provides further evidence that treating high blood pressure in older adults is beneficial for brain health and can lower the risk of dementia. It highlights the need for physicians to closely monitor medication side effects while emphasizing the importance of continuing antihypertensive therapy as long as reasonably possible. It is essential for individuals concerned about side effects to discuss their options with their healthcare provider rather than stopping medication on their own. Additionally, managing modifiable risk factors earlier in life, such as high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, and chronic diseases, can contribute to brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia.