If you have a raised blood pressure at the age of 50, you have an increased risk of dementia in later life. This conclusion, from the European Heart Journal, was based on a group of 8,639 British civil servants who were followed for 30 years. Their blood pressures were measured six times during that period, and their health regularly assessed.
The results showed that those whose systolic blood pressure (upper reading) was at least 130 mmHg at the age of 50 years were 45% more likely to go on to develop dementia than those with a lower systolic reading. In contrast, no association was seen between systolic blood pressure at the ages of 60 or 70 and the future risk of dementia. This suggests that the earlier your blood pressure starts to rise, the greater your risk of dementia – most likely because longer exposure to a raised blood pressure hastens hardening and furring up of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and reduces blood flow to the brain. This leads to a slow loss of brain cells and is also associated with so-called ‘silent’ strokes in which small areas of brain cells die due to lack of oxygen (multi-infarct dementia).
The study also found that people with high blood pressure at the age of 50 were also 34% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) than those whose blood pressure was well controlled.
What have other studies shown?
A large analysis of 11 studies, involving 768 people with vascular dementia and 9857 healthy controls, found that having hypertension (either previously undiagnosed, or poorly controlled) increased the risk of going on to develop dementia by 59%, and the risk of already having dementia by almost five-fold (4.84 times greater risk).
What does this mean for you?
Within the UK, hypertension is currently only diagnosed when your systolic blood pressure is consistently at a level of 140 mmHg or higher (or if diastolic blood pressure is 90 mmHg or greater). In the US, however, the definition of hypertension was recently changed to encompass those with a systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or greater.
This new study suggests that it’s vital to ensure your systolic blood pressure is no greater than 130 mmHg – and ideally no greater than 120 mmHg which is considered the upper limit for a normal blood pressure. To help maintain a lower blood pressure, follow a healthy, low salt, Mediterranean-style DASH diet, exercise regularly, find time for relaxation and take your antihypertensive treatment when medication is prescribed.
If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked within the last year, now is the time to get it measured.
This site features many ways to help lower your blood pressure naturally, including at least 45 natural remedies for high blood pressure.
Image credits: pixabay