15 February 2009

Australian study links hypertension and dementia

Treating high blood pressure may reduce the incidence of dementia by up to 50 per cent
Alzheimer’s Australia NSW: 29 January 2009
The review by Dr Michael Valenzuela, a Research Fellow at the School of Psychiatry, University of NSW, draws a significant medical link between “a healthy heart and a healthy brain”.

Dr Michael Valenzuela has brought together more than 10 years of global clinical research, population studies, experimental evidence and biological theory, to argue that there are direct links between heart disease risk factors and developing dementia.

Dr Valenzuela cites the European SYST-EUR trial (Systolic Hypertension in Europe Trial) as central to his findings.

The European SYST-EUR was a rigorously conducted randomized control trial that involved 4,695 individuals over the age of 60 with high blood pressure.

The trial, found an anti-hypertensive medication, reduced the incidence of dementia by 50 per cent in both Alzheimer’s Dementia and Vascular Dementia.

This statistically significant result was confirmed in a separate follow-up report four years later. Emerging dementia research in the United States and Europe, and Australia further support the finding. (See medical backgrounder attached)

“After 100 years of research into clinical risk reduction for dementia, we finally seem to have found an effective medical weapon – that of blood pressure tablets,” Dr Valenzuela says.

This groundbreaking medical finding can be found in Dr Michael Valenzuela’s new book – “It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Mind”, published by ABC Books and now available throughout Australia.

Dr Michael Valenzuela states in his new book - all the same recommendations for avoiding cardiovascular disease apply to keeping the brain healthy as well.

“So the number one thing a person can do to help prevent dementia is to have your blood pressure checked regularly and if it is high take the right measures to bring it under control,” Dr Michael Valenzuela states.

“At present, around 70 per cent of older people (from the age of 65) in Australia have high blood pressure. And one in four over the age of eighty has dementia,” Mr John Watkins, Chief Executive Officer of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, said.

“About 230,000 people across Australia already have dementia and this number is predicted to double by 2020. The findings from this clinical trial bring enormous hope in the fight against the predicted dementia epidemic,” Mr John Watkins added.

Mr Watkins urges anyone with high blood pressure, irrespective of their age, to read Dr Valenzuela’s book and follow these recommendations:

  • Get your blood pressure (BP) checked annually
  • If your BP is too high, start with lifestyle changes (as detailed below) and then, if required, trial medication with your GP
  • Ensure your weight range is within the healthy Body-to-Mass Index (BMI)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking immediately
  • Maintain a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of brain and heart-friendly food
  • Have your cholesterol checked
  • Have your blood sugar checked

Additional media coverage on: Heart Foundation Media Release: ABC News : Australian Ageing Agenda : SMH : Life Matters interview with Michael Valenzuela

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Alzheimer's Australia NSW

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