Is it possible to reverse hypertension brain damage that leads to Alzheimer’s?

One of the tricky things about staying healthy for the long-term is managing things like blood pressure, blood sugar, and chronic inflammation.

Generally, you can’t feel when these things are out of whack. So, there’s no sense of urgency to get these numbers lower.

It’s not like you’ve cut a major artery in your neck and it’s bleeding all over the place. That, you need to fix right NOW.

But failing to address these silent health challenges now can result in serious problems later in life. For example: It’s well known that hypertension, or long-term high blood pressure, puts a person at risk of heart attack and stroke.

But did you know that hypertension in middle age is also associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life?

The connection between high blood pressure and dementia

High blood pressure is characterized by too much blood volume moving through narrow, stiff arteries. There’s too much pressure against the blood vessel walls. This kind of long-term pressure can weaken small blood vessels in the brain.

Over time (like the years between your 40s and your 70s), the damaged blood vessels can no longer deliver the same amount of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Without that nourishment, nerves and brain cells gradually die off, leading to what’s called “white matter lesions.”

White matter lesions are areas of the brain where the tissue has become diseased or died. They show up as bright white spots on a brain image scan.

These lesions have been associated with cognitive decline and dementia, as well as limited mobility, increased incidence of falls, and increased stroke risk.

The scary thing is, researchers estimate that two-thirds of all people over the age of 75 are living with this kind of blood vessel and brain damage. This could be one reason the rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are at epidemic levels.

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The good news: This damage can be reversed

A new study, published in the journal Circulation, found that aggressively controlling blood pressure in middle age improved brain health later on. The study followed 199 hypertensive people for 3 years.

Related: High blood pressure just might be optional

They tracked the potential benefits of using an intensive medication treatment to lower systolic blood pressure to less than 130 mmHg, compared to 145 mmHg in the control group. (Systolic is the top number, which measures the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts).

After 3 years, there were no significant differences in mobility. But, the people with the lower blood pressure numbers had up to 40% fewer white matter lesions on their brains than those in the control group. And, they had a lower rate of heart attack, stroke, and hospitalization due to heart failure.

What a difference 15 points can make!

Why it’s so important to control blood pressure NOW

While hypertension may not be a “bleeding neck” problem right now, it IS a significant health challenge that can cause serious problems later in life.

Think about it: would you rather take steps to control blood pressure now, suffering the inconveniences of medication or a low-sodium diet or extra exercise…

Related: The best exercise for lower blood pressure (and great legs)

Or do nothing and suffer the slow loss of everything you know and love as your mind gradually withers away?

When you put it that way, suddenly controlling hypertension seems a lot more urgent!

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower it. No one wants to have to take more medication, so see what else you can do to lower your blood pressure, including simple lifestyle changes like:


Editor’s note: Discover natural and effective ways to help manage high blood pressure and avoid heart attack, heart disease and stroke in Dr. Mark Wiley’s eBook, Natural Ways to Reverse and Prevent Hypertension. Plus, learn the 7 SIGNS indicating you could be at increased risk!  Click here to get it for only $9.95 today!

Sources:

  1. Hypertension, cognitive decline and dementiaArchives of Cardiovascular Diseases
  2. More aggressive blood pressure control benefits brains of older adults — EurekAlert!
  3. Effects of intensive versus standard ambulatory blood pressure control on cerebrovascular outcomes in older people (INFINITY)Circulation
  4. 15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure — Medical News Today

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Amanda Luft

By Amanda Luft

Amanda Luft is a writer based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She's written extensively in the natural health world, on everything from organic living and disease to the power of nature on your health. When she's not writing, or cooking and baking healthy food for her family, you can find her out walking in the woods, reading, and practicing yoga.