Many studies have linked raised blood pressure in midlife to an increased risk of dementia in later life. But the term “midlife” has been poorly defined. It could range anywhere from 35 to 68 years of age.
With this in mind, researchers analyzed data from the long-running Whitehall II study to examine the association between high blood pressure and dementia at the ages of 50, 60 and 70. And it sheds an entirely new light on the matter.
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Researchers Uncover Link Between High Blood Pressure and Dementia
The research team analyzed data on 8,639 people in the study. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were taken in 1985, 1991, 1997 and 2003. The incidence of dementia was obtained from health records, and followed up until 2017.
- Those who had a systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or more at the age of 50 had a 45% greater risk of developing dementia than those with a lower systolic blood pressure at the same age. This association was not seen at the ages of 60 and 70, and diastolic blood pressure was not linked to dementia
- The link between high blood pressure and dementia was also seen in people who had no symptoms of cardiovascular disease (such as heart or blood vessel problems) during the follow-up period. These individuals had an increased risk of 47% compared to people with systolic blood pressure lower than 130 mmHg at age 50.
- The average age at which study participants developed dementia was 75.
Professor Archana Singh-Manoux, who led the research, said: “Our analysis suggests that the importance of mid-life hypertension on brain health is due to the duration of exposure. So we see an increased risk for people with raised blood pressure at age 50, but not 60 or 70, because those with hypertension at age 50 are likely to be ‘exposed’ to this risk for longer.”
The study authors believe that there may be simple explanation for the association between blood pressure and dementia. This is due to the fact that high blood pressure is linked to silent strokes, or mini strokes. These types of stroke can occur without being noticed, damaging white matter in the brain and restricting blood flow to the brain.
Managing Your Blood Pressure Over the Years
You can manage your blood pressure by getting regular exercise, managing stress levels and eating a healthy, low sodium diet (think the DASH diet). There are also certain nitrate-rich foods that promote nitric oxide production in your body. This is a compound that lowers blood pressure, boosts blood flow and helps your body get more much-needed oxygen.
Beetroot juice, in particular, is extremely high in nitrates. Leafy greens like arugula, kale and spinach also have appreciable levels of them. Other good sources include carrots, celery, green beans and radishes.
Dementia risk increased in 50-year-olds with blood pressure below hypertension threshold: Blood pressure that was higher than normal but still below the usual threshold for treating hypertension puts 50-year-olds at increased risk of dementia. Press Release. European Society of Cardiology. June 2018.
Abell JG, et al. Association between systolic blood pressure and dementia in the Whitehall II cohort study: role of age, duration, and threshold used to define hypertension. European Heart Journal. 2018.
Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”