Keeping your blood pressure low could reduce your risk of memory issues | Alzheimer's Prevention Registry

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May 15, 2019

Keeping your blood pressure low could reduce your risk of memory issues

By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin

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We continue to learn about new ways to reduce our risk of memory and thinking problems in older age. Now we know that maintaining a lower blood pressure can help. The SPRINT MIND study recently showed that keeping your top blood pressure number at 120 or below can lower your chance of developing mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

“The SPRINT MIND study is the first study to show a specific action people can take to help prevent memory and thinking problems in older age,” says Kaycee Sink, MD, senior medical director at Genentech and a member of the SPRINT MIND study team at Wake Forest University. “The study showed a significant reduction in mild cognitive impairment for people with a systolic or top blood pressure number of 120 or less but fell just short of the same result for dementia.”

Dr. Sink explains that the study was part of the larger SPRINT study designed to determine if more aggressively managing high blood pressure could reduce its consequences, including heart attacks, heart failure and strokes. It looked at the difference between bringing top blood pressure to a target at or below 120 compared to a target of 140 or below. 

“The fact that we did not see a statistically significant decline in dementia may be related to the early conclusion of the SPRINT study,” Dr. Sink says. “We do believe we may have seen a larger impact on dementia if the study had lasted longer.”

The SPRINT study ended early because it was successful in proving that the lowering the top blood pressure number to 120 was helpful in reducing the risk of poor outcomes linked to high blood pressure. It was one of the driving forces behind the 2017 recommendations to lower target blood pressure to 130 for everyone. The previous recommendation was 140 or 150 depending on age. 

“The important take away is that people should talk with their doctors about managing their blood pressure if the top number is over 130,” concludes Dr. Sink. “Lowering your blood pressure to a goal of 120 is not harmful to cognition. In fact, it can help to reduce or prevent the development of memory and thinking problems later in life.”

Dr. Sink recommends a few steps you can take to manage your blood pressure, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Decrease salt intake
  • Exercise
  • Talk to your doctor about blood pressure medication if needed

You can read more about risk factors and current recommendations for prevention on the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry website.