Report on heart risk for Americans raises Alzheimer’s concerns

A report issued this week with estimates that 121 million U.S. adults are living with cardiovascular disease raises significant concerns about a related risk: Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The report issued by the American Heart Association notes that nearly half of all U.S. adults have some form of heart or blood pressure disease. The vast majority of those include high blood pressure, which recent research has proven creates an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Journal of the American Medical Association on Jan. 28, 2019, published the results of the SPRINT MIND study, “Effect of Intensive vs. Standard Blood Pressure Control on Probable Dementia,” which showed that intensive medical treatment to reduce blood pressure can significantly reduce the occurrence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a known risk factor for dementia.

“Everyone who experiences dementia passes through MCI,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “What is good for the heart is good for the brain and, conversely, if we don’t take care of our heart, we are putting our brain and our mental health at an unnecessary risk.”

The SPRINT MIND study was the first randomized clinical trial of its kind, and it found a 19 percent reduction in risk of MCI when the systolic blood pressure goal was lower than 120 mm Hg. versus a standard care strategy target of 140 mm Hg. It was led by Dr. Jeff Williamson from Wake Forest University.

Because of the success of the original SPRINT MIND study, the Alzheimer’s Association recently announced it is providing seed funding for a two-year extension of the trial to expand the trial’s base and increase the follow-up and assessment, allowing for a more definitive statement on reducing risk of dementia.

The Association also has launched a parallel two-year clinical trial, U.S. POINTER, which will evaluate whether lifestyle interventions can protect cognitive function in older adults at risk for cognitive decline. Those interventions include physical exercise, nutritional counseling and modification, cognitive and social stimulation, and improved self-management of health status.

“While the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way in research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, these studies are essential because they show that there are steps that each and every one of us can take to reduce our risk of cognitive decline,” said Schafer. “The implications, both in terms of improved quality of life as well as reducing healthcare costs, are enormous.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s and dementia research. The Association currently has more than $160 million invested in over 450 active projects in 25 countries around the world.

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