Just as researchers look for factors that
increase the risk of developing
Alzheimer's, they are also interested in
finding out which factors may hasten
the rate of cognitive decline in people
who already have this condition.

Fluctuating blood pressure could be one
of them, a new study suggests.

Could blood pressure influence the rate of cognitive
decline in Alzheimer's disease?
A few recent studies have suggested that
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia
may have complex links with cardiovascular health.

In 2018, a study published in the journal Neurology
found that older individuals with high blood pressure
were more likely to have toxic tangles of protein in
their brains — a physiological mark of cognitive
decline.

And earlier this year, research featured in Acta
Neuropathologica suggested that Alzheimer's
disease and cardiovascular risk factors could have
a common genetic denominator.

Now, researchers from the NILVAD study group —
which involves the participation of several European
research institutions — have analyzed evidence that
seems to suggest that fluctuating blood pressure
has links to a faster rate of cognitive decline in
people with Alzheimer's disease.

The analysis, which appears in the journal
Hypertension , looked at data from NILVAD, which is
a double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III trial.

The trial is looking at whether doctors could use
nilvadipine, a hypertension drug, in the treatment of
Alzheimer's.

Can managing blood
pressure aid treatment?
For the current study, the researchers first analyzed
the data of 460 people from the NILVAD trial. The
average age of the people was 72, and each had a
diagnosis of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease.

At this point, the team only used the data of
participants who had provided blood pressure
measurements on at least three different visits to
the clinical trial center.

The team found that after 1.5 years, those who
appeared to have the highest blood pressure
variability showed a faster rate of cognitive decline
than those whose blood pressure did not vary so
much.

Following this, the researchers also analyzed the
data of a subset of 46 participants who had
provided daily blood pressure measurements.

 In
this subset, the team found "significant
associations" between blood pressure fluctuations
and quicker progression of cognitive decline after 1
year.

However, the association was no longer there at the
1.5 years landmark for this group of participants.