High blood pressure may impair cognitive function, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

By: Devon Andre | Alzheimers | Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 01:00 PM

high blood pressureHigh blood pressure may impair cognitive function, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There is consistent evidence that chronic high blood pressure can impair cognitive function, affecting memory, thinking abilities, speed of processing, and executive function.

According to the expert panel, the contradicting research on the link between high blood pressure and cognitive function points to “the complexities of recommending uniform levels of blood pressure across the life course.”

Some observational studies have found that high blood pressure contributes to atherosclerosis, while others have revealed that high blood pressure damages the blood vessels to and in the brain. Unfortunately, the evidence on whether treating high blood pressure improves cognitive function is inconclusive.

The panel of experts concluded that there is not enough evidence to offer any recommendations on tackling blood pressure in relation to cognitive impairment.

Tests and diagnosis of high blood pressure

You may have heard such readings like 130/86 mm Hg or 123/82 mm Hg, but what does this really tell us? Blood pressure readings use two numbers: diastolic and systolic.

Diastolic is the bottom number. This number is always lower and tells us the pressure on the arteries between heart beats. This is the time when the heart refills with blood. Systolic is the top number and it is always higher. It reveals the amount of pressure on the arteries while the heart beats.

The American Heart Association has created recommendations for blood pressure, so you can stay healthy and avoid hypotension and hypertension. The following recommendations are:

  • Hypotension (too low): Lower than 90/60 mm Hg
  • Normal: Lower than 120/80 mm Hg
  • Prehypertension: 120/80 to 139/89 mm Hg
  • Hypertension stage 1: 140/90 to 159/99 mm Hg
  • Hypertension stage 2: Higher than 160/100 mm Hg
  • Hypertension crisis: 180/110 mm Hg – emergency personnel should be called

Systolic pressure is more closely looked at because it is associated with higher health risks, especially in seniors.

There are two types of high blood pressure: primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension refers to high blood pressure without an identifiable cause and can develop over many years. Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition. Secondary hypertension can occur suddenly and can result from the following illnesses:

  • Kidney problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems
  • Alcohol abuse or long time use
  • Use of illicit drugs
  • Medications like decongestions, birth control, and cold remedies

Causes defer depending on the type of hypertension.

High blood pressure prevention

To avoid hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevention is your best defense. For primary hypertension, prevention methods include enjoying healthy lifestyle habits such as exercising, eating well, consuming alcohol in moderation, managing stress, and not smoking. These are simple ways to reduce the risk of developing hypertension over time.

In the case of secondary hypertension, prevention is about managing the chronic illness. If the underlying medical issue is not managed, the risk of developing hypertension increases. Following directions of medications and treatment options provided by your doctor can help you prevent high blood pressure as a result of an underlying health condition.

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Related Reading:

High blood pressure complications: Sexual dysfunction, bone loss, and obstructive sleep apnea

Resistant hypertension: Strategy to manage and treat resistant high blood pressure



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