CHICAGO – Lowering blood pressure more than normally recommended not only helps to prevent heart problems but also reduces the risk of mental deterioration (19659007) It is the first time that one single step was clearly shown to prevent a dreaded condition in which people have tried crossword puzzles, nutritional supplements and a lot of other things in the hope of something

In the study, people with an upper blood pressure value of 120 had 140 points instead 19% lower likelihood of mild cognitive impairment. They also had fewer signs of damage on brain scans, and there was a possible trend toward fewer dementia cases.

"This is a big breakthrough," Dr. Jeff Williamson of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina. "It's more important than ever to work with your doctor to make sure you have good blood pressure control."

He led the study and gave results on Wednesday at the International Alzheimer Association Conference in Chicago. They are considered preliminary until they are released and expected later this year.

Independent experts cheered the news.

"We've known for a long time that high blood pressure is bad for your heart, and now we learn it's bad for your brain," said James Hendrix, head of Alzheimer's Society's global science initiatives.

THE BRAIN BLOOD PRESSURE CONNECTION

Over 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer's is the most common type. There is no cure – topical medications like Aricept and Namenda only relieve the symptoms – so prevention is the key.

About half of adults in the United States have hypertension guidelines adopted last year and defined this as a top number of 130 or more, instead of 140. Normal is below 120.

High pressure can damage blood vessels and has long been associated with a higher risk of dementia. However, it is not known if reducing the pressure would reduce this risk or how much. The federally funded study was designed to test this in the strictest possible way.

ABOUT THE STUDY

More than 9,300 people took part in the project. On average, half of them received two medications with a maximum of less than 140. The remainder received an average of three drugs and targeted 120. During the study, the top pressure was 121 in the intensive care group and 135 in the other

The study was stopped in 2015, almost two years earlier, when it became clear that a lower one Pressure helps to prevent heart problems and deaths. But tests of thinking skills continued for another two years, and these new findings were unveiled on Wednesday.

Researchers saw a 19 percent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, in the intensive-care group – 285 cases versus 348 in the higher-pressure group. About half of people with MCI will develop dementia over the next five years.

"It's really more important to prevent MCI than dementia in some ways. It's like preventing high cholesterol levels instead of having a heart attack," said Williamson.

There were fewer dementia cases in the intensive care group, but there were too few to say that low blood pressure was the reason. Dementia takes longer than a slight impairment, so doctors believe the difference could increase over time.

MRI scans on 454 participants showed that lower pressure patients had less white matter lesions – scars or injuries. Like an Inadequate Blood Supply

"It suits" the other results on thinking skills and supports the evidence that helps lower blood pressure, said Laurie Ryan, a dementia scientist at the National Institute on Aging.

HOW LOW TO GO?

The results of this study so far this past year led to a change in the guidelines and put a high blood pressure of 130. Some doctors have criticized this as too aggressive, but the new results show benefits for the brain, "support and maybe even expand the guidelines, "said Williamson. "The goal of under 130 is extremely important."

The study did not test specific blood pressure medicines. Instead, each participant's doctor selected from more than a dozen available.

When the heart outcomes were announced a few years ago, doctors said that too little pressure, fainting and some kidney problems were a little more common in the intensely-treated group, but these risks were the benefits of a lower risk of heart problems and death value considered.

To get to the lower level meant using another drug, and "90 percent of them are generic and cost less than a dollar a day," Williamson said. "For a modest price, this has a tremendously important health benefit for humans."

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. All content is the sole responsibility of the AP.

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