Study: Lowering blood pressure could reduce the number brain lesions in seniors

Lowering blood pressure could be beneficial for brain health as we age, according to new research. ― AFP pic
Lowering blood pressure could be beneficial for brain health as we age, according to new research. ― AFP pic

FARMINGTON (United States), March 20 — New US research has found that lowering blood pressure of seniors appears to reduce the number of harmful lesions in the brain, as well as provide protection against cardiovascular events.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Calhoun Cardiology Centre, the new study looked at 199 participants with an average age of 81 who all had hypertension (high blood pressure) at the start of the study.

The average systolic blood pressure of the participants was around 150mm Hg, with all participants also showing some evidence of some cerebrovascular disease on an MRI scan. Cerebrovascular disease can be caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, leading to a gradual build-up of lesions. Older individuals with more of these lesions are more likely to have slower reflexes, mobility problems, and more signs of cognitive decline.

During the three-year study, half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive standard blood pressure control treatment, and given medication to keep their 24-hour systolic blood pressure around 145mm Hg. The other half were assigned to receive a more intensive treatment, which aimed to keep their 24-hour systolic blood pressure at around 130 mm Hg.

The findings, due to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session, showed that the participants in the intensive treatment group showed significantly less accumulation of harmful brain lesions over the three years, around a 40 per cent reduction, compared with those taking medicine to maintain a systolic blood pressure around 145mm Hg.

Another benefit was that those who kept their blood pressure lower were also less likely to suffer major cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke.

However, although these patients showed a reduction in the number of brain lesions, they did not did not show a significant improvement in mobility and cognitive function, with the researchers suggesting that the three-year study was possibly too short for any cognitive benefits associated with maintaining a lower blood pressure to be seen.

“I think it’s an important clinical finding, and a very hopeful one for elderly people who have vascular disease of the brain and hypertension,” said investigator William B. White, MD. “With the intensive 24-hour blood pressure treatment we reduced the accrual of this brain damage by 40 per cent in a period of just three years. That is highly clinically significant, and I think over a longer time period intensive reduction of the ambulatory blood pressure will have a substantial impact on function in older persons, as well.” — AFP-Relaxnews

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