Intensively controlling a person’s blood pressure is more effective at slowing the buildup of white matter lesions in the brain than standard high blood pressure treatment, a new imaging study shows. 

National Institute of Health researchers say the study results will lead to greater understanding of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. 

  Hundreds of participants in the NIH’s Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the brain to assess white matter lesion accumulation. Those who received intensive blood pressure treatment had significantly less accumulation of lesions than those who received standard treatment for high blood pressure.

 “The initial results support a growing body of evidence suggesting that controlling blood pressure may not only reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease but also of age-related cognitive loss,” said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in a release Tuesday. The results support earlier findings from the same research team that also showed intensive treatment reduces the risk for mild cognitive impairment.

  In the future, NIH researchers will explore how controlling blood pressure could affect the accumulation of white matter lesions in critical regions of the brain, and which factors impact a person’s responsiveness to treatment. 

  The study was published in Tuesday’s issue of JAMA.