Study: Lowering blood pressure helps prevent mental decline


CHICAGO (AP) — Lowering blood pressure more than usually recommended not only helps prevent heart problems, it also cuts the risk of mental decline that often leads to Alzheimer's disease, a major study finds.

It's the first time a single step has been clearly shown to help prevent a dreaded condition that has had people trying crossword puzzles, diet supplements and a host of other things in hope of keeping their mind sharp.

In the study, people treated to a top blood pressure reading of 120 instead of 140 were 19 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. They also had fewer signs of damage on brain scans, and there was a possible trend toward fewer cases of dementia.

"This is a big breakthrough," said Dr. Jeff Williamson of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. "It's more important than ever to work with your physician to ensure that you have good blood pressure control."

He led the study and gave results Wednesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago. They're considered preliminary until published, expected later this year.

Independent experts cheered the news.

"We have long known that high blood pressure is bad for your heart. Now we're also learning it's bad for your brain," said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association.

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