Pressure Lessens Dementia
From the publishers of the New England Journal of
pressure (hypertension) not only harms your heart and causes strokes, it can also
contribute to dementia (loss of cognitive or intellectual function), probably by damaging
blood vessels and causing tiny brain lesions. A Swedish study of more than 1,800 people
aged 75 and older found that taking diuretics to lower blood pressure can also lower the
risk of developing dementia.
At the beginning of the study, researchers found that
people taking diuretics were 60 percent less likely to have dementia than those who
weren't, after factoring in age, gender, blood pressure, and history of heart disease and
stroke. Among the people with dementia initially, those who didn't take diuretics over the
next three years declined mentally at twice the rate of those who did.
same time, about 15 percent of the originally unimpaired people developed dementia. Those
who took diuretics and other blood-pressure medications (such as beta-blockers and
calcium-channel blockers) were 30 percent less likely to develop dementia than people who
didn't. And, those taking diuretics alone were even less likely to develop dementia. The
study appeared in the August Archives of Neurology.
who take diuretics seem to get the fringe benefit of preventing or slowing the progression
of dementia, but the protection appears to come from lowering blood pressure and not from
the medication itself," observes Dr. Arthur W. Feinberg, HealthNews associate
editor. People with normal blood pressure should not take diuretics as a hedge against
cognitive decline, Dr. Feinberg says, but should instead strive to maintain healthy blood
pressure with a low-sodium diet, stress reduction and moderate exercise.