Lower Blood Pressure May Help Prevent Dementia
As I’ve aged, I’ve seen my blood pressure start to go up. I always thought I’d have the low blood pressure that my mom always bragged about, but it seems that I may have a tendency toward my dad’s genetics in this case. At this point, I don’t need medications, but a recent story in the Houston Chronicle gives me every reason to make sure that I remain as proactive as possible in maintaining a healthy number.
Entitled “Lowering blood pressure might prevent dementia,” the article notes that several new studies have suggested that hypertension may scar the brain which may lead to later development of dementia. These scars may actually start in middle age. The article notes that the National Institute of Health will initiate a major study using thousands of hypertension sufferers to determine if aggressive treatment to lower blood pressure will protect the brain as well as the heart. Researchers are now worried that obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes (which are linked with heart disease) may now be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease (due to weakened arteries in the brain) as well as vascular dementia. Furthermore, specialists are now realizing that many patients have a mix of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Researchers believe that elevated blood pressure may damage tiny-blood vessels by creating lesions. These blood vessels are important because they nourish white matter (which is the brain’s telephone network that allows brain cells to communicate).
Diet has become a big focus in my efforts to keep my blood pressure at a normal level. In April 2008, I wrote a sharepost, “High Blood Pressure and Alzheimer’s: What Foods to Avoid.” The lessons from that post have resonated in my dietary choices. I eat at home more often now, opting to cook my own food rather than making choices from restaurant that may mislead by printing healthy titles on menus which suggest that I’ll be eating healthy fare. And when cooking, I control the ingredients as well as how much salt I add to the food, which I wrote about in “Pass (on) the Salt Shaker! Cutting Sodium Can Prevent Heart Attacks, Strokes.”
Additionally, a new study indicates that eating a Mediterranean diet (which also is considered a heart-healthy diet) reduces strokes in the brain that are seen by scans. In addition, a study by researchers from the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center indicates that this diet may reduce the chances of having mild cognitive decline transition to Alzheimer’s disease.
My other major effort to control my blood pressure is exercise. I’m not always good about getting to the gym on a daily basis, but I’m trying to get in a walk on the treadmill or a ride on the recumbent bike at least three times a week. And spring is a great time to renew a commitment to outdoor exercise since the return of sunny, warm weather provides additional inducement to be active. My choices tend to be walking (which my dogs really appreciate), cycling and tennis.
I hope you’ll join me in renewing your commitment to diet and exercise in an effort to control high blood pressure. It turns out that this effort is just as important for your brain as your heart!