Elevated Blood Pressure A Risk For Dementia?

When it comes to high blood pressure, too many patients fall into the trap of thinking that their medication will make everything ok. While it may help keep their numbers in check for a time, if lifestyle factors aren’t addressed, the number of pills may increase to 2, 3 or even a 4th (we’ve seen it happen!) and still stay uncontrolled. The concern is that elevated blood pressure can lead to other risk factors beyond just cardiovascular stress, as a new study has suggested. It also implies that the time in life it develops may also influence certain risk factors.

Looking at women who developed high blood pressure in their forties, they were shown to be at much higher risk of dementia later in life. While there have been prior studies linking elevated blood pressure with dementia, there hasn’t been as much evidence relating it with those having issues with it before their 50’s. For this study that was published in October in the journal Neurology, researchers looked at records of more than 5,600 patients and tracked them over a 15-year period to see who developed dementia and if there was a correlation with hypertension.

What they found was that women who developed high blood pressure in their 40’s did show an increased risk of dementia, which could run as high as 73%! (This was even after accounting for other factors like smoking, diabetes and excess weight.)

Keep in mind that the brain is a very metabolically active organ (or at least it SHOULD be…) and requires a large amount of oxygen and nutrients in order to function properly. Because of that, it has a very proliferative blood supply system associated with it. If circulatory issues arise that begin to compromise that supply to the brain, it could have the potential to affect overall health and function of our most important organ! Therefore, longer-term issues with blood pressure could cause prolonged stress to the brain and be a prominent factor with issues such as developing dementia.

All that being said, it makes sense to keep your blood pressure under control as much as possible. This can sometimes be a challenging process, as so many factors predispose you to having elevated levels. Stress is always a major player, and emotions from anger to anxiety to frustration can all drive the numbers upward, especially if these are experienced regularly. Be it traffic or work environments or relationships, it always seems there is something to “push your buttons”, but learning how to keep the emotions in check can do the same for your blood pressure.

What we focus on heavily through our office is managing the chemical and physical stresses that can affect blood pressure. From a dietary standpoint, limiting pro-inflammatory foods (sugars, processed foods, etc.) and foods that are reactive to the body (allergies, sensitivities) will help keep it in a calmer state. Blood sugar balance, sodium intake and the amount of cholesterol and lipids circulating in the system will also affect blood pressure status, and can be easily controlled with better dietary management.

Pain is a major stressor to the body, and along with persistent inflammation, can cause regular elevations in blood pressure. Addressing the root causes of those nagging muscle and joint pains or overall body aches can easily give your body less reasons to be in red alert mode. Not only is pain physically uncomfortable, but it typically adds mental stress as well, which can give the blood pressure battle a double whammy.

So, if you’re female, in your 40’s, and already dealing with blood pressure issues, it may be time to make an overhaul in one or more aspects of your life. We have many ways to help keep a better state of balance in the body, and in addition, get you feeling better in the process. And it just may save your memory as well!