From Heart to Head

Few things make people more afraid of getting old than the possibility of dementia. What if there was a way you could help prevent this scary illness, and what if you could do something today? Medical professionals have known that there is a link between high blood pressure and dementia, but new research is revealing that simply lowering blood pressure can directly lower cognitive impairment. Now you can help your heart and your head!

Benefits of Low Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is most commonly associated with heart disease because of its direct effect on blood vessels. High blood pressure causes more blood to be pumped while simultaneously restricting the flow through the blood vessels, which makes the heart work harder and causes the arteries to thicken. This thickening can lead to heart failure, heart attack, or stroke. The longer high blood pressure continues, the higher the risk for complications.

While the heart may be the most obvious organ to benefit from low blood pressure, researchers have discovered another major benefit. A federally-funded SPRINT MIND study found that lowering blood pressure could reduce the risk of cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Close to fifty million people in the world have some type of dementia, and there is no cure, so preventing the disease is important. 

Researchers found that by reducing patients’ systolic blood pressure (top number in blood pressure reading) from 140 to 120, they were 19% less likely to develop mental impairment and their brain scans showed less damage. Almost half of people with mild cognitive impairment will eventually develop dementia, so a 19% reduction is significant.

How to Lower Blood Pressure

Because diseases such as dementia don’t generally develop until old age, it is easy to ignore information now. However, with findings such as these, it is more important than ever to manage blood pressure early. There are several lifestyle adjustments you can make to lower your blood pressure. Food and activity affect the way the heart operates, and if the heart is working harder, it is pumping more blood and putting additional pressure on the blood vessels. 

Inactivity also leads to being overweight, which makes the body require more blood to supply nutrients and oxygen to tissues. Eating a diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limits sugar, salt, and red meat will provide your body with energy and nutrients it needs to function well. Getting regular exercise and staying active will put those nutrients to good use and help keep your waistline in check.

Smoking has been shown to contribute to high blood pressure on its own, but it can also damage the artery walls and cause narrowing. Likewise, alcohol can damage the heart and cause high blood pressure, so limit your intake to no more than one drink a day (one drink equals twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, and one and a half ounces of liquor). Managing stress and getting plenty of sleep may also help keep blood pressure low. 

If you struggle with high blood pressure and other remedies are not helping, or if you have other inherent risk factors like family history or advanced age, your doctor may prescribe medication. Medication can be helpful for people, especially when combined with the lifestyle changes discussed above and when taken as directed by your doctor. If you struggle with high blood pressure or if you have a history of mental illness, you may be wondering where to start. At TrustCare Heart Clinic, we can review the options and help you make a plan for lowering your blood pressure. We also offer a heart screening that will provide a clearer picture of your heart health. Book an appointment with us today!