In a new study, researchers found lowering blood pressure in older age could help prevent worsening brain damage.
The research was conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut.
Previous studies have shown that cerebrovascular disease limits the flow of blood to the brain. It is a common brain health condition in older people.
It can lead to a gradual buildup of lesions that represent areas with damaged nerve cells in the brain’s white matter.
Older people with these lesions may have slower reflexes, more problems with mobility and higher cognitive decline.
In the current study, the team monitored blood pressure in older people with around-the-clock ambulatory blood pressure monitors.
The monitors could measure participants’ blood pressure during all daily activities, rather than only in the clinical environment.
The team also conducted an MRI scan to check brain lesions in the patients.
They found that with the intensive 24-hour blood pressure treatment, they reduced the accumulation of brain damage by 40% in a period of just three years.
Older people who kept systolic blood pressure around 130 mm Hg for three years had less accumulation of harmful brain lesions.
On the contrary, in high blood pressure patients who used drugs to maintain a systolic blood pressure around 145 mm Hg, the brain damage was worsened.
The team also found that people who kept their blood pressure lower experienced fewer heart attacks and strokes.
But the brain lesion reduction did not translate to a strong improvement in cognitive function and mobility.
The findings suggest that three years of time may not be long enough to see the cognitive effects.
The study is the first to show an effective way to slow the progression of brain cerebrovascular disease.
The researchers believe that their findings are important for older people who have vascular disease of the brain and high blood pressure.
Future work needs to examine the benefits of lowering blood pressure on brain health in a longer time frame.
The team suggests that it is possible that over a longer time period intensive reduction of blood pressure, there will be a strong impact on function in older persons.
One author of the study is William B. White, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Calhoun Cardiology Center.
The study is presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session.
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