The American Heart Association stated this month that high blood pressure in middle age may contribute to the development of dementia.
This hypothesis has not yet been scientifically proven.
As treatments for dementia remain difficult and the number of cases worldwide is expected to triple from current levels by 2050, trials are currently underway to see if high blood pressure presents a threat to developing this brain disease. Some results will be known in 2017.
High blood pressure damages the blood vessels of the brain and leads to hardening of the arteries. It also affects tiny blood vessels and the ability of the brain to control blood flow, which is essential to keeping it working in a normal way.
Because it is clear dementia begins in midlife, starting to control high blood pressure when people are in their 50s could be key to helping diminish or avoid dementia. Physicians and scientists are concerned starting to control high blood pressure later in life (in a person's 60s or older) may offer no benefit or could even do harm.
Maintaining a healthy weight; exercising; eating a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, fiber and low-fat dairy products, less salt and fat; limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one a day for women; all are ways to reduce blood pressure to desired levels. If these measures are not successful, a doctor can prescribe medication.
For more information regarding high blood pressure and dementia, visit the Alzheimer's Association's website www.alz.org/we_can_help_blood_pressure.asp.
Whether or not studies define a link between high blood pressure and dementia, managing their blood pressure should be a priority for everyone. That's because high blood pressure affects other parts of the body; controlling it saves stress on the brain, the heart and the kidneys, making it important to overall health.