Some five million Americans live with dementia, most often Alzheimer's disease. And it's almost certain that as the general population gets older, dementia will become more common. But a new study published this week offers some encouraging, if mixed, news.
It may be possible to prevent cognitive decline by a high blood pressure, the study found. Unfortunately, it may not be clear.
Cardiovascular disease was considered to be the cause of major health issues. 8,500 volunteers were also studied for their potential risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) at an earlier stage of memory loss and brain drain that often progresses to dementia.
The findings of the current study, published Monday in JAMA, come from this side project, called the SPRINT MIND study. MCI than people given standard care. The rate of new MCI cases is 19 percent lower in this group.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for all sorts of conditions, including cognitive decline. In this regard, we do not currently have any evidence that we can help prevent dementia. So the results of the SPRINT MIND are definitely good news in that sense.
But there's a big caveat to the study. Ultimately, while there is a small reduction in new cases of full-blown dementia in the aggressive treatment group, it is not a statistically significant difference from the group given standard care.
Ordinarily, it might be easy to dismiss the tossed results of the SPRINT MIND study as overblown hype. But there's a key point to take into account. While not every person with MCI goes on to develop dementia, everyone with dementia wants first experience MCI. And because the study was finished early, it's possible researchers simply did not have the time to do it.
"The fact that there is still silence a MCI encouraging, "Laurie Ryan, chief of the Dementia of Aging Branch at the National Institute on Aging, said in a statement (the NIH helped fund the original SPRINT study).
So while the study is not a home run for dementia prevention, it's a promising lead. In light of the findings, the Alzheimer's Association announced Monday that it would provide SPRINT MIND 2.0, an extension of the original study that should provide two more years of follow-up data.
"The Alzheimer's Association finds the data to be compelling, and is committed to getting clarity and certainty on the dementia outcome by following participants for a longer period of time," Maria Carrillo, chief scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.
Hopefully, time really will tell if lowering blood pressure can prevent dementia.
[JAMA via NIH, Alzheimer’s Association]