The first ever intervention that has been proven in clinical studies to lower the risk of memory loss was recently identified by researchers.
A new study revealed that lowering blood pressure can reduce the risk of dementia, as well as control the memory loss that accompanies the disease. Learn more about the intervention, which involves a strict control of blood pressure.
Controlling Blood Pressure and Memory Loss
In a recent study on controlling blood pressure and memory loss, researchers found that participants who had a reduction in blood pressure to the reading of 120, ended up being nearly 20% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Once a person is diagnosed with MCI, the risk of dementia goes up, because MCI oftentimes precedes the disease.
Blood pressure reduction was achieved by either antihypertensive medications (those that lower blood pressure) or a low sodium diet in the study.
Dr. Mark Supiano, a geriatrician at the University of Utah Health system and the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, who was involved in the study, says:
“These results really do cement the adage that what is good for the heart is good for the brain.”
Although research is still in its early stages, it is doesn’t detract from the possibility that lifestyle interventions can have a major impact on lowering the mental decline that results from dementia and memory loss.
The evidence in the study was so compelling that the American Heart Association adopted new guidelines to lower systolic blood pressure to 120. Before the study, high blood pressure was not diagnosed until the systolic reading reached 140. A diagnosis of high blood pressure now starts when the reading is at 130/80.
Dr. Jeff Williamson of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, says that lowering blood pressure also reduces the risk of dementia. Williamson’s research team observed the impact of lowering the blood pressure in 9,000 study participants over age 68 and found that their results “support the need to maintain well-controlled blood pressure, especially for persons over the age of 50.”
How Blood Pressure Impacts Brain Health
Blood pressure has been found to impact brain health and memory loss, due to its ability to damage blood vessels in the brain.
“Anywhere from 50-70% of people with dementia also have (blood vessel) vascular changes,” Heather Snyder, senior director of medical operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, tells NBC News.
Dr. Supiano adds, “So much of the focus on this disease has been centered on amyloid. I think increasingly there is evidence that the vascular damage over time may potentially be more important.”
He continues, “There isn’t a whole lot we can do to treat dementia once it develops, if we can effectively prevent it, even by a few years, the public health impact of this is enormous.”
How to Control Blood Pressure and Memory Loss
There are several methods to control blood pressure, which could impact memory loss:
One is a low-salt diet, high in fruits and vegetables.
Several different types of medications, prescribed alone, or in a combination with other drugs, can be used to lower the blood pressure:
Health care providers usually begin by prescribing a diuretic — a type of drug that lowers the total volume of blood. Diuretics work in the kidneys by flushing salt out of the body. Too much salt can result in an extra fluid build up in the blood vessels. When the salt leaves the kidneys, excess fluid follows.
Calcium Channel Blockers
The second type of medication that doctors usually prescribe to lower blood pressure is called calcium channel blockers. Calcium channel blockers cause the blood vessels to relax and widen by affecting the muscle cells in the walls of the arteries.
Be sure to consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or medication.
Have you found a correlation between blood pressure and memory loss in a parent or senior loved one? What did you do to help control blood pressure? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.