New research from NUI Galway has shown that lowering blood pressure with medications can significantly reduce the risk of dementia.
In findings published this week, a meta-analysis of 14 randomised controlled trials with over 96,000 participants found that blood pressure lowering medications reduced the risk of developing dementia by 7%.
It also found that these medications reduced cognitive decline by 7% over a four year period.
Dr Michelle Canavan, Consultant Geriatrician at Galway University Hospitals, and senior author of the paper said that preventing dementia is a major health priority.
“We know from previous research that a major concern of older people is developing dementia.
“The message from this study is simple: Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, it can be readily treated with lifestyle changes and medications.
“We would hope that our study will heighten awareness of the importance of controlling blood pressure to maintain “brain” health, combined with a healthy lifestyle.”
This study aimed to gather all the evidence from previous trials of blood pressure lowering medications on people diagnosed with high blood pressure.
As there are currently no therapies that directly prevent dementia, this newly discovered benefit to hypertension treatments is extremely valuable.
“When you consider how common dementia is in the population, 50 million people worldwide, effective treatment and control of hypertension would have a major impact on preventing dementia.
“Our findings emphasize the need for more effective screening, prevention, and treatment of hypertension, which remains suboptimal in Ireland”, explains Dr Conor Judge, joint author of the study.
“We know from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging that two thirds of people aged over 50 in Ireland have hypertension, of which half are unaware of the diagnosis, and one third are not on treatment.”
This is a major care gap which needs to be addressed he added.
The research was funded by Wellcome Trust, HRB, HSE and NUI Galway through the ICAT programme.
The findings of this study have been published this week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
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