High blood pressure’s impact on cognitive decline you need to know

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, doesn’t just affect your heart and blood vessels—it can also take a toll on your brain.

Research has shown that chronic hypertension is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life.

The brain requires a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood to function correctly. When blood pressure is consistently elevated, it can damage the delicate blood vessels in the brain, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery.

Over time, this damage can contribute to the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Several studies have provided evidence of the link between high blood pressure and cognitive decline.

One study published in Neurology followed over 15,000 adults for more than 20 years and found that individuals with high blood pressure in midlife were more likely to experience cognitive decline and develop dementia later in life compared to those with normal blood pressure.

Another study published in JAMA Neurology found that hypertension in midlife was associated with an increased risk of brain atrophy, or shrinkage, later in life.

Brain atrophy is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and is associated with cognitive decline.

Furthermore, high blood pressure can contribute to the development of small vessel disease in the brain, characterized by damage to the small blood vessels.

This damage can lead to the formation of white matter lesions and microinfarcts, which are associated with cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia.

The exact mechanisms by which high blood pressure contributes to cognitive decline are not fully understood, but researchers believe that it may involve a combination of vascular damage, inflammation, oxidative stress, and disruption of the blood-brain barrier.

The good news is that managing high blood pressure may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Several studies have shown that controlling blood pressure through lifestyle modifications and medication can slow the progression of cognitive impairment and reduce the risk of developing dementia.

A landmark study called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) found that intensive blood pressure control significantly reduced the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia among older adults with high blood pressure.

In addition to managing blood pressure, adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle can also help protect against cognitive decline.

This includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, engaging in regular physical activity, staying mentally and socially active, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

It’s important to recognize that high blood pressure is not just a risk factor for heart disease and stroke—it’s also a significant risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

By prioritizing cardiovascular health and taking steps to manage blood pressure, individuals can help protect their brain health and reduce their risk of cognitive impairment later in life.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about unhealthy habits that may increase high blood pressure risk, and drinking green tea could help lower blood pressure.

For more information about high blood pressure, please see recent studies about what to eat or to avoid for high blood pressure,  and 12 foods that lower blood pressure.

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