Taking medication to keep blood pressure lower may also reduce the risks of mental decline and dementia for elderly patients, a new study suggests.
The exact causes of Alzheimer's disease and dementia are not clear, but some where between 30 and 60 percent of people with Alzheimer's also have blood flow problems.
Blood pressure medications like beta blockers are proven to reduce heart disease risks, but their brain effects are still largely unknown.
But a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found unprecedented brain benefits of taking blood pressure medication.
People on a higher dose of the drugs had nearly 37 percent less damage - measured by the volume of lesions in their brains - to their brains, and had significantly less brain shrinkage than did their peers who received less aggressive treatment.
Aggressively treating high blood pressure and bringing systolic pressure down to 120 mm/HG may protect the brain, too, by slowing the development of dementia-related lesions (file)
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, and Alzheimer's isn't far behind it.
Preventing, treating or curing these diseases has been a top public health priority for decades.
Scientists now have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the risk factors and problems underlying heart disease.
Genetics, poor diet, age and sedentary lifestyles all contribute to the odds of developing heart disease.
The clearest predictors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
All of these make the heart work inordinately hard.
The same fats that build up in larger blood vessels and contribute to heart disease can accumulate and jam up the smaller blood vessels that feed the brain, too.
Without consistent blood flow to them, brain cells sustain damage or die off.
These show up as 'white matter lesions' - or white spots - on an MRI.
Spots are perhaps the most common brain scan abnormality, and only become increasingly so as we age.