The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure and Alzheimer’s Risk: What’s the Connection?
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cognition encompasses thinking, memory, language, attention, and other mental abilities. Researchers have known for many years that if you have high blood pressure, you have a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia.
Inside the Brain-Blood Pressure LinkWhat’s the connection? High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels in the brain, affecting parts of the brain responsible for thinking and memory. So can controlling blood pressure through medication also lower Alzheimer’s risk? The recent Johns Hopkins report published in the journal Neurology confirmed earlier work from Johns Hopkins researchers that found the use of potassium-sparing diuretics reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly 75 percent, while people who took any type of antihypertensive medication lowered their risk by about a third. “What we found was that if you didn’t have Alzheimer’s and you were taking blood pressure medication, you were somewhat less likely to develop dementia. And if you had dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and you took certain antihypertensive, the disease was less likely to progress,” explains Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins. “It’s not clear if the connection comes from managing the blood pressure better or if the particular drugs might have properties that interfere with other processes relating to Alzheimer’s.” He says he suspects both play a role. Stay tuned for results of further research, but in the meantime, learn ways to manage your risk of hypertension.
How Low Should You Go?
Lower is not necessarily better when it comes to blood pressure. A 2013 study published in the journal JAMA Neurology found that people with heart disease or stroke who had lower-than-normal blood pressure (in which the bottom, or diastolic, number was less than or equal to 70 mm Hg) were more likely to show changes in the brain that can affect cognition and memory. National guidelines recommend people with hypertension who are 60 and older aim for a goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg, while those ages 30 through 59 aim for a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg. Younger people should aim for a goal of less than 140/90 mm Hg. Consult with your doctor about the best target for you.