Learn about the connection between dementia and high blood pressure. Understand how hypertension can increase the risk of developing dementia and more.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) has been linked to the development of dementia, particularly vascular dementia.
- Vascular dementia is caused due to reduced blood flow to the brain due to damaged blood vessels, which can be caused by hypertension.
- Hypertension can also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels through lifestyle changes and medication can help reduce the risk of dementia.
Dementia is a progressive decline in cognitive function that affects memory, language, problem-solving, and decision-making.
High blood pressure is a major cause for the development of dementia, particularly in mid-life. The link between the two conditions is complex, with several factors contributing to the development of both hypertension and dementia.
This article will explore the connection between dementia and high blood pressure, highlighting the importance of early detection and management of hypertension to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is now a well-established risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. The underlying mechanisms by which hypertension affects brain health are not fully understood, but several theories have been proposed.
One theory is that high blood pressure causes damage to the brain through arteriosclerosis and the buildup of fats in the blood vessels. This results in a lack of oxygen and nutrients in brain cells, resulting in potential damage and dysfunction.
High blood pressure is also a leading health risk for stroke. Blockages in the brain arteries, caused by hardening of the arteries, are the most common cause of stroke.
Bursting of an artery in the brain, also known as hemorrhagic stroke, can lead to brain cell death and the development of stroke-related or post-stroke vascular dementia.
Additionally, small vessel disease, characterized by the narrowing and blockage of deep cerebral blood vessels, can lead to the development of subcortical vascular dementia.
This condition is often asymptomatic, but over time the accumulation of microbleeds and other changes in the brain can become visible in imaging studies. Though it may not cause an overt stroke, small vessel disease can still significantly impact cognitive function.
Other than that, high blood pressure can cause ‘Brain Atrophy’.
Brain atrophy is the loss of brain cells and the shrinkage of brain tissue.
Research has shown that high and low blood pressure can lead to brain shrinkage. Studies have found that people with high blood pressure in their middle age have a higher chance of experiencing brain shrinkage later in life.
Other studies have found that older people with low blood pressure have a higher chance of experiencing brain shrinkage. However, more research is needed to understand the connection between blood pressure and brain shrinkage, especially in people with existing artery problems.
Brain shrinkage symptoms include loss of reasoning ability, memory loss, difficulty with communication, and disorientation. These symptoms may be accompanied by declines in reading comprehension and the onset of learning disabilities.
Note: Dementia can also cause brain shrinkage. Specifically, frontotemporal dementia causes brain atrophy.
Research has also elucidated an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have shown that small vessel disease in the brain may play a significant role in this connection. While observational studies have suggested that treating hypertension can prevent cognitive decline, randomized clinical trials have not conclusively proven this association.
Some studies have also suggested that low blood pressure in older or frail individuals may be linked to worse cognitive function. The optimal blood pressure values for protecting cognitive function in older adults are not yet known.
While hypertension in midlife is linked to a 60% greater chance of developing dementia, as people get older, this link disappears.
Some studies have found that high blood pressure in old age may not be linked to dementia. These suggest that it may even lower the risk of dementia.
The study collected data from 17000 participants from seven population-based cohort studies. In it, it was found that in younger age groups (60-70), higher blood pressure was linked to lower dementia risk.
On the contrary, in older age groups (75+), high and low blood pressure was linked to lower dementia risk, but it was not due to more prolonged survival.
Adhering to a healthy lifestyle throughout decreases an individual’s risk of developing high BP and hence dementia. Studies have shown this.
Eating foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, such as leafy greens, fish, and nuts, can help check blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products are a great first step in reducing the numbers on the bood pressure chart.
Follow this routine and assess the change on your home blood pressure monitor.
Addressing any existing health issues through appropriate treatments keep BP numbers at normal level. This may include taking medications to control blood pressure, prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol, and manage diabetes.
A visit to your general practitioner can provide a comprehensive overview of your health, allowing you to receive the necessary treatment and support.
When you exercise, your heart pumps more blood and oxygen to your muscles, strengthening your heart and blood vessels. This helps the blood flow more easily through your body, which can lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown that regular exercise can lower systolic blood pressure by about 4-12 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by about 3-6 mmHg.
The best natural blood pressure pills provide nutrients that support healthy blood vessels and cardiovascular function. Some examples include magnesium, which helps to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure; omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health; and potassium which helps to balance the effects of sodium in the body.
By the way, we also have a comprehensive article on this topic that you may find helpful. Give it a read here: How To Lower Diastolic Blood Pressure Through Minor Lifestyle Changes?
The connection between dementia and high blood pressure is clear. Hypertension is a major risk factor for developing dementia, especially vascular dementia.
Adhering to a healthy lifestyle by controlling blood pressure and exercising regularly is a way to reduce the risk of hypertension and dementia. Also, consult a healthcare provider to keep track of blood pressure and address any issues.
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