Did You Know: The Dangers High Blood Pressure Increases Your Likelihood of Alzheimer's
Health experts note an increasing demographic of people over the age of 60 will create a rise in cases of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. A great deal of research has been focused on investigating the causes of these cognitive problems associated with aging. New studies suggest that uncontrolled high blood pressure in midlife can have a significant effect on cognitive function later in life. This data indicates that individuals should be concerned about their blood pressure earlier, to prevent negative cognitive effects that may appear later on.
What the Science Says
In the studies, individuals who maintained normal blood pressure levels with medication developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia at a much lower rate than those whose blood pressure remained untreated. Although they are unsure of the exact link between the medication and lower risk for dementia, they feel the data is significant enough to warrant a call for better control of blood pressure in the middle years of life.
Why Blood Pressure May Affect Cognitive Function
When the blood is pumped through the body by the heart, it creates pressure on the walls of the vascular system, the veins, arteries and smaller blood vessels that carry blood, oxygen and nutrients to cells and organs throughout the body. When blood pressure is higher than normal, it causes additional pressure on blood vessels that may cause them to become damaged, reducing the amount of nourishing components that are carried to the brain. As a result, brain cells may suffer, leading to problems with cognitive function.
Controlling Blood Pressure Levels
For many years, high blood pressure has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke. The new link to dementia makes managing blood pressure levels even more important. Your physician can choose from many medications that will help to lower blood pressure. Some of these drugs have side effects that can be unpleasant, but your doctor can provide a different medication if you find one drug causes symptoms. Potassium-sparing diuretics, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors are some of the common medications used to treat high blood pressure.
Tips For Managing Blood Pressure
If you follow these tips, you will be doing all you can to prevent dementia, as well as other serious medical conditions:
- Eat a healthy diet of lean meats, whole grains, plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and healthier oils like olive oil and canola oil. Avoid processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about ways to lose weight.
- Exercise regularly to manage weight and improve your overall health.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly at your doctor's office or your local pharmacy. Home blood pressure devices are inexpensive and can help ensure your numbers are maintained within normal range.
- If you are prescribed high blood pressure medication, take it regularly as directed.
High blood pressure is associated with a wide range of health problems, but it is also one of the easiest problems to control. Your physician can choose from a broad range of medications that can help to manage your blood pressure, so you can maintain good cognitive health throughout your life.