Dementia is on the minds of Americans, and it is causing a substantial amount of fear. A recent study suggested that nearly half of Americans in their 50s and 60s believed they are at least “somewhat likely” to develop the condition in the future. That’s a pretty scary outlook, especially when many aren’t considering what might be the number one risk factor: blood pressure.
Keeping blood pressure in check might be one of the most significant factors in staving off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the future. New research, for example, has found that people who take blood pressure medication have the same risk for dementia and as those with healthy blood pressure—which is much lower than for those with high blood pressure.
Blood pressure can play a role in dementia risk for one major reason: blood supply to the brain. High blood pressure means that blood is having a hard time moving around the body—it comes from LDL cholesterol deposits in the arteries, being overweight or obese, smoking, too much alcohol, and more. In any event, it can limit blood flow to the brain, making it harder for cells to stay healthy, functional, or alive.
Medication, of course, is not the only way to manage blood pressure and potentially reduce the risk of dementia. By practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can lower your blood pressure and perhaps ease your mind from an impending bout of dementia. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a “normal” part of the aging process.
Some things you can do include:
- Join an exercise group. Whether it’s a group to go walking outside or morning wall walks, cardiovascular activity and personal connection can both be good for blood pressure and mind.
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet that high in plant-based foods, green veggies, healthy fats, and fatty fish.
- Take your blood pressure medication as prescribed.
- Try to lose weight—losing as little as five pounds can make a big difference in blood pressure.