For adults with high blood pressure, higher blood pressure control than what is currently considered standard is associated with fewer adverse brain changes, which may mean lower risks of dementia and cognitive impairment, according to new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association,
In particular, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study of 449 adults showed that those with high blood pressure who had reached a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg – known as "intense" blood pressure control – had little , but a significantly lower white matter lesion on their brain, but a slightly greater reduction in brain volume compared to similar patients who reached the current standard blood pressure of 140 mm Hg.
"The great news from this study is that high blood pressure is a treatable condition, and if you treat high blood pressure aggressively, you could have a positive benefit for knowledge and brain structure," said R. Nick Brian, MD. ., Chair and Professor of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. "Although the benefit may be small, it is one of the few knowledge-intensive interventions we have."
White matter brain lesions are well documented to be associated with a greater likelihood or intensity of cognitive decline. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is considered to be 130 mm Hg or higher.
This study supports the findings of a related study published in January, which shows that intensive blood pressure monitoring is associated with fewer cases of cognitive adverse events. Both studies were part of a larger body of NIH-funded studies known as the Systolic Blood Pressure Test (SPRINT), designed to determine the protective value of lower blood pressure for heart, kidney and brain health. Previous SPRINT studies have also shown that intensive blood pressure monitoring in people with hypertension is associated with better outcomes in terms of risks of heart attack, heart failure, and death.
In this study, researchers compared MRI scans of adults 50 and older, with an average age of 67, with systolic blood pressure between 130 and 180 mm Hg at baseline and four years later, noting white matter lesions and brain volume.
The next step in this investigation is to understand the effects of intense blood pressure control on younger adults, such as those in their 40s, Brian said. "We need to understand how aggressive we have to be with blood pressure control when we are in the process earlier," he said.
Materials provided by The University of Texas at Austin, Note: Content can be edited for style and length.