High blood pressure heightens Alzheimer's, researchers say

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Although it is not the root of Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure appears to exacerbate the condition, researchers say. High blood pressure lessened the flow of blood in the brains of adults with Alzheimer's, heightening the disease's effects, according to University of Pittsburgh investigators.

"This study demonstrates that good vascular health is also good for the brain," noted report co-author Oscar Lopez, M.D., a professor of neurology and psychiatry. "Even in people with Alzheimer's disease, it is important to detect and aggressively treat hypertension and also to focus on disease prevention."

Researchers used a newer, non-invasive form of magnetic resonance imaging to study blood flow in the brain in 68 older adults. Six subgroups were studied: those with no impairment, mild impairment and Alzheimer's, and each of those subgroups with and without high blood pressure. Blood flow in the brain was the least among Alzheimer's patients with high blood pressure. Blood flow was less in the non-impaired group with high blood pressure than the non-impaired group without dementia or high blood pressure.

While hypertension has long been known to put people at greater risk for stroke and heart attack, only recently has evidence grown suggesting that cardiovascular fitness also affects brain health.

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