Lower Blood Pressure Lessens Dementia


From the publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine




      High blood 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.

      During that 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.
      "People 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.



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