WSFA/NBC - Doctors have long suspected that what's good for your heart is also good for your head. Now there's scientific proof that drastically lowering high blood pressure has brain benefits.
"For the first time we actually have evidence that it can either delay or avoid altogether mild cognitive impairment and dementia," Maria Carrillo with the Alzheimer's Association said.
The research project involved nearly 10,000 older adults. Those able to get their top blood pressure number down to 120 were nearly 20-percent less likely to develop the memory and thinking problems that often precede Alzheimer's disease.
But it's too soon to say it can prevent Alzheimer's.
"I think this is a start rather than a finish. This is the first big study to show that risk factor control has some legs," Dr. Alan Lerner at the University of Ohio Cleveland Medical Center said.
A separate study shows promise for an experimental drug from pharmaceutical company Biogen. Patients showed cognitive improvements a year and a half into treatment.
"The combination of lifestyle with therapeutics is the future for Alzheimer's and dementia treatments," Carrillo said.
More than 5-million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease.
Medication is one way to bring down high blood pressure. Doctors also recommend quitting smoking, cutting back on salt and alcohol and getting plenty of exercise.
The new research was presented at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago.