Knowing you have higher-than-normal blood pressure — and taking daily medication to treat it — may be one key to preventing dementia later in life, a new study has found.
Scientists already know that having high blood pressure, especially between the ages of 40 and 65, increases the risk of developing dementia later in life, Ruth Peters, an assistant professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in an email.
But research is less clear about whether lowering blood pressure in older adults reduces that risk, she said.
“What’s so interesting about our study is that the data show that people taking blood pressure-lowering drugs had a lower risk of being diagnosed with dementia than those taking a matching placebo,” said Peters, a senior research scientist. at Neuroscience Research Australia, a not-for-profit research organisation.
Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as mmHg) consisting of two numbers, the upper or systolic reading, which represents the maximum pressure in your arteries, and the lower or diastolic reading, which shows your pressure. Arteries when your heart muscle is at rest between beats.
The study, published this week in the European Heart Journal, combined data from five large randomized trials. Double-blind clinical trials in more than 28,000 older adults with a mean age of 69 years from 20 countries. All had a history of hypertension.
Each clinical trial compared people taking blood pressure medications People took a matching placebo pill and followed them for an average of 4.3 years. Pooling the data, Peters and her team found a drop of 10 mm/Hg and 4 mm/Hg on systolic. Diastolic blood pressure readings at 12 months significantly reduce the risk of dementia diagnosis.
Additionally, there was a broad linear relationship: As blood pressure dropped, cognitive risk decreased, which held true at least up to 100 mm/Hg systolic and 70 mm/Hg diastolic, the study said. There was no indication that blood pressure medication could later damage blood flow to the brain.
When sex, age or history of stroke were taken into account, there was no difference in outcome.
“We know that what we do throughout life affects brain health late in life,” Peters said. “So the best advice we can give is to live a healthy lifestyle at all ages, and of course, if you are prescribed medication to control your blood pressure, take it as directed by your doctor.”
According to the American Heart Association, lifestyle changes can sometimes add to the need for high blood pressure medication. Suggested actions include limiting alcohol, managing stress, stopping smoking, eating a well-balanced and low-salt diet, getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and taking blood pressure medication as directed.
Research shows such differences can work A 2021 study found that diet, exercise and low salt intake reduced blood pressure in people with resistant hypertension, which is high blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medication.
In one 16-week study published in 2018, people who followed a low-salt diet, exercised, and practiced weight management techniques (such as watching portion sizes) reduced their blood pressure on average. 16 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic, American Heart Association said
The diet used was the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop High Blood Pressure. An award-winning diet plan, DASH has a simple premise: eat more vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy; Limit foods high in saturated fat; Limit your sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day—that’s about 1 teaspoon of table salt.
The DASH meal plan includes four to six servings of vegetables and another four to six servings of fruit; three whole grain products; Two to four servings of fat-free or low-fat Dairy products; and a few servings of lean meat and nuts, seeds, and legumes each day.
However, if lifestyle changes do not significantly lower blood pressure within six months, the American Heart Association recommends adding prescription medications for high blood pressure while continuing healthy behaviors.