Intensive control of blood pressure in older people significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a precursor of early dementia, according to the National Institutes of Health-supported Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial Memory and Cognition in Decreased Hypertension, or SPRINT MIND.

However, the study did not prove that treating blood pressure to a goal of 120 mm Hg or less statistically reduced the risk of dementia. This result may have been due to too few new cases of dementia occurring in the study, the authors noted.

The final results of the trial, in which the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the UAB School of Medicine played major clinical and leadership roles, were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Jan. 28.

“Remember that the trial’s management of blood pressure in both the standard and intensive arms was discontinued early, after only three years, due to the demonstrated benefit of fewer cardiovascular events and lower all-cause mortality with intensive control,” said Virginia Wadley Bradley, PhD, a professor of medicine in the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care and the vice chair of the committee that oversaw the SPRINT MIND trial. “It is remarkable that lowering blood pressure intensively for only three years reduced the incidence of MCI within a five-year period. MCI considerably increases the risk of subsequent dementia. SPRINT results now show that both the heart and the brain are protected by intensive treatment of hypertension. The implications for prevention of cognitive impairment are groundbreaking.”

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