Blood pressure and brain ageing

Brain Ageing and Blood Pressure

With advances in medical technology and improved living standards, many of us are living far into old age. One of the downsides of this is that more and more people are exposed to the potential for developing cognitive health issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which are associated with ageing.  

Maintaining good brain health is essential if people want to remain in control of their faculties into their later years. The good news is that our understanding of this area of human physiology has improved a great deal over the last few decades. 

One interesting area of study is the relationship between blood pressure and brain ageing and how maintaining a healthy body throughout one’s lifetime can potentially delay or even avoid cognitive decline. While more research needs to be undertaken, the preliminary results raise some intriguing possibilities. 

There are, of course, numerous factors associated with developing a condition such as dementia. People will normally encounter difficulties such as poor memory and forgetfulness before cognitive abilities deteriorate further and other health problems come to the fore. Genetics, environment, serious illness and a history of head injury can also play a role.

What Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the measure of force that the body uses to push blood around the body. It is normally calculated in milligrams of mercury and a healthy reading is considered between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHg. 

Blood pressure machine reading

The first number is systolic pressure or the power with which blood is pumped out from the heart when the heart muscle contracts. The second figure is the diastolic pressure and corresponds to the lowest pressure in the blood vessels during the relaxation and expansion phases of the heart muscle.

High blood pressure or hypertension is a common issue in modern society. Over the last 20 years, the number of people over the age of 30 diagnosed with high blood pressure has almost doubled. The earlier in life that high blood pressure occurs, the more of a problem it can be for overall health and wellbeing, especially in the individual’s later years.

The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Age-Related Illnesses Such as Dementia

A recent study showed that those who had a higher than normal blood pressure in their early adult years later exhibited an older brain than those who had lower blood pressure by as much as six months. 

Another study in 2013 found that people with high blood pressure were more likely to have biomarkers for Alzheimer’s in their spinal fluid compared to those with normal BP. 

People with hypertension are already at risk of health conditions such as heart attack, sudden death and stroke and medication is often used to help control blood pressure and reduce their risk. While medical intervention can be effective in these cases, people can also take non-pharmacological approaches and the earlier these are adopted, the better. 

How to Keep Blood Pressure Under Control

The first step in reducing the potential for developing high blood pressure is living a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a waist circumference of 95 cm for men and 80 cm for women, for instance, should form a part of this. 

Waist circumference is an indicator of the amount of visceral fat that we are carrying around the midriff as well as around important organs such as the liver. People with larger waists tend to be more prone to being overweight and conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease as well as diabetes. 

Most of the ways to maintain healthy body weight and reduce visceral fat involve diet and exercise. Individuals should, for example, take regular exercise – a minimum of 3-5 hours of moderate activity a week that gets one out of breath. 

  • Reducing salt in the diet can also help prevent hypertension from building over time. 
  • A good, varied diet and plenty of exercise are the main ingredients of a healthy heart and lowered blood pressure. 
  • Processed foods often contain high levels of both salt and sugar which can be detrimental to health. 
  • Cutting back on alcohol is also a good idea. Regular heavy drinking in particular can quickly lead to a problem with blood pressure. 

One other contributor to high blood pressure in modern society is stress. With busy work and family lives, it’s a prevailing problem that not only has a long-term impact on mental health but also our physical wellbeing. Reducing stress and learning how to cope with it can make a big difference to blood pressure. 

Supplements such as organically aged kyolic garlic, bergamot that has a high level of BPF 99 polyphenol and small amounts of dark chocolate have also been shown to lower blood pressure. 

The Miskawaan Way

The medical team of Miskawaan Health Group advises you and helps you identify your risks for high blood pressure. Miskawaan’s specially designed health programs counteract these risk factors.

The content above is based on the information featured in the article linked below. 

The author of the article is Dr Ross Walker, one of Australia’s most esteemed cardiologists and a member of the Miskawaan Medical Advisory board.