Ischaemic and degenerative brain diseases are a major health problem leading to a devastating loss of autonomy. Hypertension has been shown to carry an increased risk not only for cerebrovascular morbidity and mortality but also for cognitive impairment and dementia. Although diastolic blood pressure is considered an important risk factor, it is now clear that isolated systolic hypertension and elevated pulse pressure also play an important role in the development of brain complications. Therefore the treatment of these conditions must urgently become a widespread tool of prevention. All the randomised placebo-controlled trials completed for the last 30 years have shown a reduction in fatal and/or non-fatal strokes. In the most recent trials in isolated systolic hypertension in older patients, the benefit was even greater because of the higher risk in these populations. The new classes of drugs, in particular, calcium-channels blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, have been shown to be as effective as the originally used diuretics and beta-blockers. Active treatment in the Syst-Eur trial based on nitrendipine as first step, possibly associated with enalapril and/or hydrochlorthiazide reduced not only stroke and cardiovascular complications but also the incidence of dementia including Alzheimer's disease. This important finding must be confirmed by further trials specifically focusing on the prevention of dementia. In addition, the importance of pulse pressure as a risk factor, underlines the need for new drugs which could increase aortic distensibility and decrease systolic blood pressure without greatly reducing diastolic pressure. Improving the management of hypertension offers new opportunities to reduce age-related disease in older people and to promote healthy aging.