High Blood Pressure Increases Dementia Risk
The small arteries of the brain are sensitive to elevations in blood pressure, and long-term hypertension carries the risk of injury to these small vessels, impairing blood flow and resulting in damage to or atrophy of brain tissue. As such, high blood pressure is hazardous to the brain, contributing to the development of vascular dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and cognitive impairment:
• High diastolic blood pressure at age 50 predicts poorer cognitive function at age 70. 2
• Even in younger subjects - 40 and under - higher blood pressure correlates with poorer cognitive performance.3
• An MRI study determined that higher systolic blood pressure is associated with white matter lesions - a type of damage to brain tissue that arises due to poor circulation and poses risk for dementia.4
• According to long-term (20-year) studies, the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is more than doubled if systolic blood pressure is in or above the range of 140-160 mmHg.1
Most cognitive impairment is not age-related, it is lifestyle-related. Over many years, the Western diet combined with high blood pressure inflicts a great deal of damage on the brain's delicate small vessels. Keeping your blood pressure in the favorable range is an important step toward maintaining your brain function as you age.
Dr. Fuhrman's strategies for healthy blood pressure levels:
• Consume a diet based on whole plant foods.5
• Avoid salt, alcohol, and caffeine.6-8
• Maintain a healthy weight.9
• Exercise regularly.10
1. Nagai, M., S. Hoshide, and K. Kario, Hypertension and dementia. Am J Hypertens, 2010. 23(2): p. 116-24.
2. Kilander, L., et al., Hypertension is related to cognitive impairment: a 20-year follow-up of 999 men. Hypertension, 1998. 31(3): p. 780-6.
3. Suhr, J.A., J.C. Stewart, and C.R. France, The relationship between blood pressure and cognitive performance in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Psychosom Med, 2004. 66(3): p. 291-7.
4. Kuller, L.H., et al., Relationship of hypertension, blood pressure, and blood pressure control with white matter abnormalities in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS)-MRI trial. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich), 2010. 12(3): p. 203-12.
5. Utsugi, M.T., et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of hypertension determined by self measurement of blood pressure at home: the Ohasama study. Hypertens Res, 2008. 31(7): p. 1435-43.
6. Sesso, H.D., et al., Alcohol consumption and the risk of hypertension in women and men. Hypertension, 2008. 51(4): p. 1080-7.
7. Sacks, F.M., et al., Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. DASH-Sodium Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med, 2001. 344(1): p. 3-10.
8. Winkelmayer, W.C., et al., Habitual caffeine intake and the risk of hypertension in women. JAMA, 2005. 294(18): p. 2330-5.
9. Bogaert, Y.E. and S. Linas, The role of obesity in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Nat Clin Pract Nephrol, 2009. 5(2): p. 101-11.
10. Pescatello, L.S., Exercise and hypertension: recent advances in exercise prescription. Curr Hypertens Rep, 2005. 7(4): p. 281-6.