It's well known high blood pressure increases your risk for stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked and brain cells become deprived of oxygen and die. Individuals with high blood pressure are 4-6 times more likely to have a stroke. An individual's risk of having a stroke is directly related to how elevated their blood pressure is.
A link between high blood pressure and dementia
Now there is evidence linking high blood pressure with dementia and the risk is also directly related to how high your blood pressure is.
A subset of participants enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative, comprised of 1403 women over the age of 65, were followed for eight years. MRI scans revealed increased white matter lesions in women with high blood pressure. White matter lesions indicate a weak insulation around nerve cells necessary for brain communication.
A second study led by Johns Hopkins University followed 983 middle age or older men and women for over 15 years. Similar results were found related to white matter lesions. The higher the blood pressure levels the greater the brain damage.
Now, the connection between high blood pressure and dementia is not clear cut. Some studies have shown high blood pressure treatment to lower dementia risk and others have not found a link. Currently the National Institutes of Health is preparing to begin a study of 7500 patients with high blood pressure age 55 or older. The test will evaluate whether or not aggressive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure below 120 mmHg will be healthier when compared to systolic levels below 140 or 130 mmHg.
Blood pressure guidelines
The Joint National Committee defines a blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg to be normal and a blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 mmHg to be pre-hypertension.
Steps to lower high blood pressure
A few steps you can take right now to promote a lower blood pressure include:
1. Quit smoking
2. Lose and/or maintain a healthy weight
3. Decrease sodium intake to less than 2400 mg/day
4. Restrict alcohol to less than 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks or less per day for men
5. Exercise 30 or more minutes daily
6. Following a heart healthy diet, such as the DASH diet to lower blood pressure
Published On: May 24, 2010