Standard blood pressure control may not be enough to protect the brain

The National Institutes of Health has published a new study that highlights the importance of controlling blood pressure at younger ages in order to lower one's risk of serious health issues later in life. The research, which involved participants with the NIH's SPRINT trial, found that 'intensively controlling' blood pressure 'significantly' reduces one's odds of developing mild cognitive impairment in old age.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor in a variety of conditions and health complications, including heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, eye disease, and more. Having excessively high blood pressure may also increase one's odds of developing dementia in old age, something recently analyzed by the newly published NIH study.

As part of their work, a team of scientists studied MRI scans of hundreds of participants' brains, finding that 'intensively controlling' blood pressure may be key to slowing down the accumulation of white matter lesions in the brain. These accumulations can be caused by high blood pressure, among other things; standard blood pressure control wasn't as effective at slowing the accumulation of these lesions.

The presence of these lesions is also associated with the development of dementia later in life, as well as lesser cognitive impairment and disorders. The study's author Clinton B. Wright, M.S., M.D., said, 'Intensive treatment significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure.'

The findings come amid a growing push for prevention and treatment methods for dementia, a condition that is expected to impact millions of people in coming years as the global population lives to older ages. The development of Alzheimer's disease and dementia has been linked to many possible contributing factors, including chronically poor sleep quality, poor diet, and lack of exercise. However, there's no clear way to prevent the condition at this time.