Researchers looking into factors that hasten the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s sufferers have found a link to cardiovascular health. Scientists from the NILVAD study group, which is a collaboration between several European research institutions, think that fluctuating blood pressure could exacerbate memory loss.
They analysed data from a double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III trial to see whether a common hypertension drug might have potential to treat Alzheimer’s. The research looked at data from 460 people with an average age of 72 and a mild to moderate Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Each of the study’s participants had provided blood pressure measurements on three separate occasions. Over a period of one and a half years, it was found that those whose blood pressure readings varied the most had the highest rate of cognitive decline.
This was then followed up with the analysis of data from a subset of 46 individuals who had handed over blood pressure measurements on a daily basis. In this group, significant associations between fluctuations and quicker cognitive decline could be seen in only a year.
Dr Jurgen Claassen from Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen in the Netherlands was a senior author on the study. He said: “Everybody already knows that it's important to control blood pressure in midlife to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's later, but this tells us it's still important to regulate blood pressure when you already have dementia.”
The researchers underlined the fact that more research needs to be done to back up the findings and establish a definitive link. It’s also possible that Alzheimer’s is causing the fluctuation in blood pressure readings and not the other way around.
Limitations in the study included a small sample size and the observational nature of the research, but it could provide the foundations for greater inquiry. If so, there’s a chance that interventions could be established to help slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s for those who already have the disease.