BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "Running from the wolf." That's how one person described her fear of developing Alzheimer's disease. Pennington Biomedical recently launched a first-of-its-kind study that hopes to identify strategies to reduce the risk of getting that dreaded diagnosis.
Several studies have already shown a link between high blood pressure and the development of dementia, but that link has never been tested.
"In the elderly it's not clear at all what blood pressure should be or how it should be regulated," Jeff Keller, Ph.D. explained. Keller leads Pennington's Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention.
The rrAA study – or Risk Reduction for Alzheimer's Disease – needs adults ages 60 to 85 who have high blood pressure. Researchers work with the participant and their primary care doctor to see if intense management of blood pressure and cholesterol will help prevent the disease. Aerobic exercise is also being tested in some study groups as a possible risk reducer.
"There are currently 5 million people with the disease," Keller said. "Because of aging demographics, what's going to happen is over the next 35 years that number is going to go to 15 million unless we find a way to treat or prevent this disease."
Pennington is one of six places around the country taking part in the study. Scientists are also testing the blood pressure and exercise theory at UT Southwestern and Texas Presbyterian in Dallas, the University of Kansas in Kansas City, Michigan State University in Lansing, and Washington University in St. Louis.
It truly is a race against the clock. In that same 35-year period that cases will increase, Keller said the number of available caretakers will d rop by 60 percent.
"You're going to have more disease, less people to care for them. It's a huge, urgent crisis not only in our healthcare system, but in our social fabric," he said.
If the study is successful, the strategies to reduce dementia risk will be deployed across the country through primary care providers.
Compensation for completing the study is $750.
You may qualify if you:
- Are 60-85 years old
- Have high blood pressure
- Have concerns about memory or have a parent or sibling with a diagnosis of dementia
- Are willing to be placed in one of the following four study groups
- Usual care by your doctor
- Aerobic exercise
- Intensive medical management of blood pressure and cholesterol
- Aerobic exercise and intensive medical management of blood pressure and cholesterol