Blood pressure readings tied to memory loss and increased risk of dementia
(NaturalHealth365) One in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure – along with a heightened risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis and premature death. And – with the “graying” of America – national rates of high blood pressure are expected to climb even further.
Clearly, the need for natural ways to lower blood pressure has never been more important!
Now, a recent study indicates that high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to another devastating consequence – the accelerated onset of dementia and cognitive decline.
The good news: an aggressive approach to blood pressure control can go a long way towards reducing dementia risk. For some natural ways to lower blood pressure – and protect cognitive function – keep reading.
Shocking study results trigger a change in thinking about blood pressure
To conduct the study – which involved over 9,300 adults with systolic blood pressure readings of 130 mm Hg and above – researchers divided the participants into two groups.
Treatment for one group focused on lowering systolic blood pressure to below 120 mm Hg – while the other group was only treated with an eye towards keeping their systolic blood pressure under 140 mm Hg.
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Note: the systolic – or top – number of a blood pressure reading measures the force exerted on the arteries during contractions, while the bottom number measures the pressure between heartbeats.
Researchers found that the more intensive approach to blood pressure control reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure by an impressive 25 percent – and decreased the odds of death from heart disease by 27 percent.
The more intensive approach to lowering blood pressure also slowed the development of “white matter” lesions in the brain. These lesions, which indicate impaired brain microcirculation, are predictors of stroke, dementia and premature death.
The benefits of keeping systolic blood pressure under 120 mm Hg were so clear-cut that a safety monitoring committee actually stopped the trial early – a very unusual occurrence.
The reasoning behind the decision?
As it became clear just how dramatic the benefits were, study leaders felt it would be unethical to allow one randomly-selected group to continue to experience them – while the other group did not.
Reduce risk of dementia with strict blood pressure control
The findings didn’t just apply to increased risk of heart disease. The researchers reported that elevated blood pressure can also trigger dementia and cognitive decline.
However, the team reported that maintaining strict blood pressure control can reduce the risk of cognitive problems.
Participants in the lower blood pressure group not only reduced their risk of heart disease, but they had a 19 percent reduction in new cases of mild cognitive impairment as well.
Red ALERT: Despite the benign-sounding name, mild cognitive impairment involves a measurable decline in cognitive abilities – and increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The research, released last summer at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, was ultimately published in the medical journal Blood Pressure.
As a direct result of the study, the American Heart Association revised its blood pressure recommendations, stating that treatment should begin at 130/80 mm Hg – rather than at the previous standard of 140/90 mm Hg.
Control and prevent high blood pressure with lifestyle changes
For protection against heart disease and cognitive decline, what is the ideal blood pressure?
While 120/80 mm Hg is considered “optimal” in mainstream medicine, natural health experts have long advised 115/75 mmHg as a healthier target goal.
And, research confirms the value of this recommendation. Studies have shown that the risk of heart disease doubles with every 20/10 mm Hg increase over the optimal level of 115/75.
Yet, we know: simple lifestyle changes – such as quitting smoking, getting sufficient exercise, maintaining healthy weight, eating a whole organic diet and taking appropriate supplements – can help to lower blood pressure naturally.
Opt for plenty of potassium-rich, fiber-rich organic fruits and vegetables, which are packed with powerful antioxidant plant compounds such as quercetin, resveratrol and anthocyanins.
While a variety of fruits and vegetables can benefit blood pressure, two in particular have stood out in recent research.
In one study, blueberry powder significantly decreased blood pressure in postmenopausal women, while reducing arterial stiffness. And, two servings a day of fresh honey mangos caused substantial drops in blood pressure, along with a beneficial dilation of arteries.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – such as cold-water fatty fish and flaxseed oil – can also help regulate blood pressure.
Garlic, beetroot, cashews and almonds are other good choices for lowering blood pressure.
Of course, trans fats, highly processed foods, refined sugar and excessive amounts of salt should be banished from your menu. In addition, many health experts advise sharply limiting alcohol consumption as well.
Combat high blood pressure with natural supplements
A variety of natural substances exist that can help maintain healthy blood pressure – and cut your risk of cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss.
Olive leaf extract is rich in oleuropein, a phenolic compound which helps to combat the arterial stiffness that contributes to hypertension.
In one influential study involving 232 participants with hypertension, olive leaf extract decreased systolic readings by 11.5 mm Hg – leading researchers to comment that it worked as well to lower blood pressure as the pharmaceutical drug captopril.
Other natural supplements with potential blood pressure-lowering properties include melatonin, coenzyme Q10, the amino acid L-arginine and fish oil.
Naturally, you should get your integrative doctor’s go-ahead before adding any supplements to your regular health routine – and don’t eliminate or decrease any prescribed medications unless advised to do so by your physician.
Finally, consider employing natural stress-relieving techniques – such as meditation, acupuncture, yoga, biofeedback and Tai Chi.
Clearly, the new study sheds light on a disturbing consequence of hypertension. But, it also offers hope that effectively targeting high blood pressure can protect our all-important cognitive abilities – and preserve the ability to recall cherished memories.
Sources for this article include:
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