High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it doesn’t present many symptoms, yet it can take such a huge negative toll on your health. Often, when blood pressure is discussed, consequences of the heart are brought up, but did you know that living with hypertension can also negatively impact the brain too?
Many recent studies are starting to dig deeper into the link between high blood pressure and brain health, in particular, Alzheimer’s disease.
Director of the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention at Louisiana State University Jeff Keller explained, “High blood pressure, uncontrolled, causes damage to virtually every organ system. It shouldn’t be surprising that the brain, the most vascularized and energy-dependent organ of the body, is greatly the most damaged by fluctuations in blood pressure control.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth common cause of death within the US, and nearly 5.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease with 200,000 patients being under the age of 65.
Preliminary findings were presented at the Annual Alzheimer’s Association meeting in July and suggested that aggressively treating high blood pressure to reduce blood pressure below current recommendations reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which is a common precursor of dementia.
An alternative study that looked at older persons found that those with high blood pressure were more likely to have brain lesions, which is caused by low blood supply. These patients were also found to have greater tangles or twisted areas within the brain, which are markers of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous guidelines considered a blood pressure reading of 140/90 to be high, but revised guidelines now consider 130/80 to be high.
It is estimated that 46 percent of the American population qualifies for high blood pressure, yet around 16 percent aren’t even aware.
Lifestyle changes can go a long way in better controlling hypertension including modifying one’s diet by reducing salt, avoiding high fat foods, eating more vegetables, losing weight, exercising more, reducing stress, sleeping well, and not smoking.
It has also been suggested that the lifestyle factors to improve blood pressure can also work to improve brain health as well.