Most people know that high blood pressure can cause many health issues, but what is often overlooked is how low blood pressure can increase the risk of dementia. A decline in brain function is not a normal part of aging, as some may think. Age-related cognitive decline has many causes, and research shows how low blood pressure could be one of those causes.
Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily life. It happens when the parts of the brain used for learning, memory, decision making, and language are damaged or diseased.
Low blood pressure is when there is limited blood flow to the brain when sitting or standing. Many studies have suggested that insufficient brain blood flow plays a critical role in the development of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Some researchers even believe that it may play the primary purpose.
Health care professionals are currently working to determine what the threshold is for blood pressure to be “too low.” This would allow physicians the information needed to know when to intervene and correct a patient’s low blood pressure.
Previous studies have shown that two components of blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, are the best predictor of cognitive decline. Diastolic is the better of the two, measuring blood pressure when the heart is relaxing and is the lower number of the reading.
Low resting diastolic blood pressure is remarkably common. In fact, over 85% of otherwise healthy 50-95-year-old patients have below normal resting diastolic blood pressure. This may sound good; however, three-fourths of those patients with below normal blood pressure also test in the “below normal” cognitive function range.
The Role of Calf Muscles
The soleus muscles are specialized muscles in the middle of the lower legs, which are responsible for pumping blood back up to the heart. Research shows that soleus muscles play a critical role in maintaining normal blood pressure during sedentary activities.
An effective strategy for maintaining normal blood pressure is to “re-train” the soleus muscles. These calf muscles are most active during activities such as squatting or toe standing. You can rebuild these muscles by regular exercises that target the soleus muscles. Both electrical and mechanical soleus stimulation approaches have been shown to significantly increase blood flow to the heart.
There are currently no treatments for dementia, which is why the health community has become much more focused on slowing or reversing cognitive aging to prevent the progression of dementia.
If you are experiencing dizziness, blurry vision, fainting, or have a diastolic blood pressure below 60 mmHg, it is time to talk to your doctor. As many people are more worried about high blood pressure, low blood pressure can have just many health concerns, so be sure not to overlook a low reading.