By Kennedy Shelley
This is the one number you need to keep an eye on when you approach middle age if you are going to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Your blood pressure patterns are shown to be a huge indicator in how much of your brain function you keep.
Johns Hopkins just released a blockbuster long term study that took place over 25 years. While they were not specifically looking at dementia, they found this important link.
When blood pressure is abnormal in middle age and it continues as you age, so does your risk of losing mental function.
This study did not prove cause and effect, but it was such a powerful constant that the researchers highlighted this finding.
Too high or too low, blood pressure really needs to be brought to the normal levels. Some of this may be accomplished through diet and lifestyle though some may need medication.
High blood pressure in middle age and not getting it in control later in life increased your chances of dementia by 49% according to the study. The standard for high blood pressure was considered 140/90.
But the risk went up to 69% if your blood pressure was high when you were middle-aged, but low as you got older. Low was defined at less than 90/60.
The changes in blood pressure may be a result of the hardening of the arteries. This will with certainty affect overall brain health.
This could help stop the flood of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Around 5 million people in the US have been diagnosed with dementia.
While aging is the number one risk factor, little things you can do to reduce being one of these people is important.
This is groundbreaking work. Researchers have done little in the past to see if blood pressure has a link to maintaining mental function.
But the Hopkins study does reinforce the importance of maintaining normal blood pressure.
Blood pressure medications need to be modified as we age, and at-home monitoring is a great way to see trends between visits to the doctor.
Most home monitors store the data and for less than $40 you can get an automated machine that also stores the data on your phone so you can share it with your doctor.
We often do not get a good measure of our blood pressure at the doctor.
When you arrive at the doctor you are probably rushed to make it to your appointment, then you get agitated waiting and then they rush you into the room and quickly take your blood pressure and they are probably talking to you the whole time.
And these do not get you an accurate reading for diagnostic purposes. You are supposed to be sitting with your back supported and quiet for 5 minutes.
Since this doesn’t happen at the doctor’s office, it is important to do this at home.
When you get this right, you can make decisions to manage your blood pressure better.
And avoiding dementia is a good reason to get it right. It would not be good to think you are finally normal in your blood pressure, but it’s actually very low when taken properly if you are older because that leads to a greater risk of dementia.
If the risk to your heart wasn’t a reason to keep an eye on your blood pressure, keeping your brain functioning at a high level might be another.
To paraphrase a line attributed to John Wayne: ‘Getting older is tough…it’s tougher if you have dementia.’