Blood pressure fluctuations cause faster cognitive decline in older adults, according to research. The findings revealed that blood pressure fluctuations were associated with faster cognitive decline among older adults over the course of five years.
Lead study author Bo (Bonnie) Qin explained, “Blood pressure variability might signal blood flow instability, which could lead to the damage of the finer vessels of the body with changes in brain structure and function. These blood pressure fluctuations may indicate pathological processes such as inflammation and impaired function in the blood vessels themselves.”
Researchers analyzed data from 976 Chinese adult participants of the China Health and Nutrition Survey, which took place over a five-year span. Blood pressure variability was based on three or four visits to the doctor. Participants also underwent cognitive quizzes.
Here’s what the researchers have found:
- Higher visit-to-visit variability in the systolic blood pressure reading was associated with a faster decline of cognitive function and verbal memory.
- Higher visit-to-visit variability in the diastolic blood pressure reading was associated with faster decline of cognitive function among adults ages 55 to 64, but not among those over 65.
- Neither average systolic or diastolic blood pressure readings were associated with brain function changes.
“Controlling blood pressure instability could possibly be a potential strategy in preserving cognitive function among older adults,” Win added.
The study was observational, so the findings do not imply cause and effect between blood pressure fluctuations and cognitive decline, but evidence is growing to suggest that blood pressure may very well play a role in older adults’ cognitive ability.
What causes fluctuating blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the impact with which your blood hits the walls of your blood vessels after each heart beat. A healthy blood pressure is a reading of 120/80 mm Hg. Being over 140/90 mmHg means you have hypertension – high blood pressure. There are many factors that can trigger our blood pressure to raise or fall – some are more serious than others. The key is to generally maintain a healthy blood pressure level to avoid any lasting health complications.
Here are some common causes for fluctuating blood pressure.
- Food sensitivities (blood pressure can spike after a meal, especially if the meal contains salt)
- Caffeine consumption
- Adrenal fatigue
- Deposits of calcium or cholesterol in the arteries
As you can see, many of these factors are modifiable, which means adjusting your lifestyle habits can help you maintain healthier blood pressure. The key is to eat well, watch your salt intake, reduce your stress, stay well hydrated, exercise regularly, and take the necessary measures to lower your cholesterol as a means to lower your risk of a cardiovascular event resulting from high blood pressure.