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Could Lowering Blood Pressure Help Stop Dementia?
Date:3/17/2010

Major U.S. trial will enroll thousands to examine links between hypertension, Alzheimer's

WEDNESDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- In the ongoing struggle to find treatments -- and maybe one day even a cure -- for dementia, researchers are focusing their attention on high blood pressure, long a culprit for a variety of other ills and an ailment for which many drugs are already available.

This coming fall, the U.S. National Institutes of Health will start enrolling participants in the largest trial thus far to see if lowering blood pressure even below current recommendations can reduce not only the risk of age-related cognitive decline, but also the risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) will involve 7,500 people aged 55 and over who will be followed for a minimum of four years. The NIH is investing $114 million in the endeavor.

"We have a number of effective and safe medications to lower blood pressure," said Dr. Lawrence Fine, chief of the clinical applications and prevention branch in the division of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "For the average person right now, the recommendation is a blood pressure of 140/90 or lower. SPRINT will compare that with a goal of 120 as the top number. Will the rate of dementia for people in the lower-goal arm be lower than standard?"

Current clinical guidelines recommend systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) of less than 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for healthy adults, and 130 mm Hg for adults with kidney disease or diabetes.

"Hypertension is very easy to medicate and very easy to measure, so they want to see if just by modifying that simple thing they could reduce the incidence of dementia," said Ian Murray, an assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College
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