High Blood Pressure is Linked to Dementia

According to a recent study, older adults with high blood pressure may be more likely to develop a type of mild cognitive impairment that can lead to vascular dementia. People with high blood pressure had a 40% greater risk of mild cognitive impairment, and a 70% higher risk of cognitive impairment that does not involve memory difficulties.

People with high blood pressure are at risk for vascular disease which can cause changes in the blood flow to the brain and a higher possibility of stroke. Small, frequent changes to the blood flow to the brain may cause small silent strokes. These small areas of stroke over time cause cumulative changes in the cognitive abilities of the brain.

Vascular dementia is different from Alzheimer’s dementia. There are differences in the pattern of cognitive changes. Older adults with Alzheimers disease generally hsve a gradual progressive decline in all areas of brain function, whereas an older adult with vascular changes may have step-wise changes associated with the occurrence of each stroke. There are no hard and fast rules as to the type or severity of cognitive changes in vascular dementia because different areas of the brain are responsible for different cognitive functions.

Although not all strokes result in vascular dementia, as many as a third of the people who have a stroke will experience dementia within six months. Vascular dementia also can occur without a complete blockage of an artery. Portions of the brain can be starved for oxygen and food by reduced blood flow from arteries narrowed by vascular disease. Vascular dementia can also be caused by low blood pressure, brain damage caused by brain hemorrhage, blood vessel damage from such disorders as lupus erythematosus or temporal arteritis.

Other risk factors for vascular dementia include high blood pressure and diabetes. There is no treatment to cure vascular dementia. The best medicine is preventive use of blood pressure medicine and medications to reduce blood sugar if a person has known high blood pressure or diabetes. Healthy lifestyle factors are ultimately the best way to prevent vascular dementia, including daily exercise, maintaining a diet low in saturated fat, high in complex carbohydrates and portion control.

Source: Archives of Neurology

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