For a few years now, researchers have been looking into the connection between blood pressure and dementia. Studies have revealed there is a link between hypertension, or high blood pressure, and an increased risk for dementia, as high blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in the brain responsible for thinking and memory.
Research from John Hopkins found that those using anti-hypertensive medications to control high blood pressure lowered their risk for Alzheimer’s by about a third; those who didn’t have Alzheimer’s and were taking blood pressure medication were somewhat less likely to develop dementia, and some of those medications helped the disease from progressing in those already diagnosed.
However, lowering blood pressure has been shown to have certain ramifications, too. More recent studies have shown that people who have lower than normal blood pressure were more likely to be at risk for changes in the brain that affected cognition and memory.
Risk Factors for Dementia
One of the biggest known risk factors for dementia is simply advancing age. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, while one in three people age 85 or older have the disease. It’s not known why old age and dementia are so connected, but more studies are being conducted to discover why the risk increases so drastically with age.
Other risk factors for dementia that we have no control over include family history and genetics. If a parent or sibling has Alzheimer’s disease, you are more likely to develop it, too. The risk increases further if more than one family member has dementia. Heredity or genetics also plays a role, as risk genes and deterministic genes for dementia can be passed down through generations.
While there is no cure for dementia, living a healthy lifestyle has been shown to reduce your risk. Making brain-healthy lifestyle choices like exercising regularly, stimulating your mind often, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep can all help delay cognitive decline and memory loss.
Low Blood Pressure and Dementia
While lowering blood pressure in those with hypertension is beneficial to their overall health, studies have shown that caution is needed when lowering blood pressure in those who already have low diastolic blood pressure (the number on the bottom of a blood pressure reading). Those with lower-than-normal blood pressure may face a higher risk of brain atrophy- the death of brain cells or the connections between brain cells. A recent study revealed that those whose diastolic blood pressure was lower than 70 mm Hg had more brain atrophy as time went by.
What this means is that treatment for high blood pressure needs to be adapted to the individual. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the best target blood pressure for you and your cardiovascular health needs.
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