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Lowering blood pressure in older age may reduce dementia risk, a global study including 28,000 participants across 20 countries has found.

Investigators analyzed five double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trials with different methods of lowering blood pressure. There was a mid-range follow-up period of approximately four years.

A total of 861 participants developed dementia during follow-up. Sustained reduction in blood pressure was associated with a greater reduction in dementia risk — no matter the type of treatment used, the investigators found.

One change, big gains

In the absence of a treatment for dementia, a chance to lower risk in one area could make a big difference in patients’ lives, said researcher Ruth Peters, PhD, of the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia. 

“Our study suggests that using readily available treatments to lower blood pressure is currently one of our best bets to tackle this insidious disease,” she said. “Given population aging and the substantial costs of caring for people with dementia, even a small reduction could have considerable global impact.” 

Remaining questions include whether additional lowering of blood pressure in individuals with already well-controlled hypertension would be helpful and whether antihypertensive treatment earlier in life would also help to reduce the long-term risk of dementia.

Dementia rates are projected to triple globally by 2050, as the population of older adults grows.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal.

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