Lowering Blood Pressure to Prevent Dementia

November marks Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and with a rapidly aging population, the race is on to find better treatments, prevention strategies and one day a cure for this most common form of dementia.  Research is looking at many approaches to help prevent older adults from developing dementia and a recent study has found that strictly controlling blood pressure could offer a measure of protection against this disease that robs patients of memory, thinking skills and personality.

According to a recent NBC Health News report, a large clinical trial has found that lowering blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk for developing cognitive decline and dementia.  Lowering the systolic (the top number in a reading) blood pressure to 120 or less has also been found to reduce the risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and other chronic health problems.   

The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, results were so dramatic that the American Heart Association released a new recommendation for blood pressure in 2017.  Anyone with blood pressure over 130/80 will be considered to have high blood pressure; in the past hypertension was diagnosed once the top number hit 140. 

Patients with stage 1 hypertension may be able to get their numbers down with lifestyle changes rather than jumping into drug treatment.  Getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy, reducing sodium in your diet, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and cutting back on caffeine have all been found to help lower blood pressure.  Stress also plays a role in high blood pressure and finding healthy ways to relax can help adults reduce chronic stress.

Although there is no cure at present for Alzheimer’s Disease, with early diagnosis, there are treatments to help slow down the progression and give loved-ones more time to plan for the future.  Memory screenings can identify problems that may be caused by other medical conditions, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues or depression as well as Alzheimer’s.  Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. 

Contact your healthcare provider if you or a loved one have concerns about memory issues or difficulty with daily activities.   Learn more about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease by following this link to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.