Lowering Blood Pressure May Be Linked to Reduced Risk for Dementia

Many of us are going through the phase of life in which we are caring for aging parents.

It’s one of the biggest challenges we’ll face in life. It requires considerable stamina, decision-making, love and patience.

Most of us are happy to do this for our parents. Especially after all they’ve done for us through the years. But it can be exhausting work.

And in far too many cases, dementia compounds the problem. Physical problems are tough enough to deal with. When we see once-vibrant loved ones struggling to think clearly and remember facts and faces, it’s upsetting.

Study Focuses on Prevention

There is little anyone can do to treat dementia. But many studies have been conducted on its causes and potential for prevention.

Recently a number of news outlets including CNN and the New York Times have reported on one in particular.

Researchers say lowering an older person’s blood pressure could be a factor in cutting the risk for dementia.

Technically, it might only have an impact on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). But MCI is a precursor to dementia.

10 Million New Cases Each Year

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is the seventh leading cause of death in the world. About 50 million people have it around the globe. And some 10 million new cases are diagnosed each year.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in older U.S. adults. Approximately 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

Previous studies linked high blood pressure with dementia and MCI. People with higher-than-average BP had more tangles in their brain tissue than those with lower BP.

So, researchers decided to see if lowering blood pressure to under 120 mmHG would change anything. The study involved 9,361 people age 50 and older with elevated blood pressure. The outcome was positive for reducing MCI.

Cautiously Optimistic

Dr. Richard J. Hodes is the director of the National Institute on Aging. Here’s what he has to say about the study.

“Dementia continues to be a large public health challenge. Results showing that intensive lowering of blood pressure may reduce risk for MCI… give us additional avenues to explore on the path to prevention.”

Laurie Ryan is chief of the Dementias of Aging Branch in the National Institute of Aging. She says the outcome of the study was not surprising.

“This study is in line with where the field of dementia research is going: preventing memory loss earlier. We hope to have guidance based on this and subsequent studies that will more definitely show how to slow or even stop dementia well before symptoms appear.”

Hello, Brain. It’s Your Gut.

Switching gears for a moment, let me ask you a strange question. Do your gut and your brain talk to each other?

I already know the answer. It’s yes, but you’ve probably never given the subject much thought.

There was another smaller study conducted by Japanese researchers. It was suggested that the quality of the bacteria in our digestive systems could make us susceptible to developing dementia.

Apparently the “conversations” our guts have with our brains could hold clues. They could help develop approaches to prevent and treat dementia.

Gut Microbiota Also Linked?

The study indicates there is a link between gut microbiota and dementia. The researchers determined that dementia patients have different populations of bacteria than other people do.

The dementia patients had higher levels of chemicals such as ammonia. And they had lower levels of potentially good bacteria.

The researchers admit their study was a small one. And that it was based on observations only.

But they boldly declared, “Gut microbiota is an independent and strong risk factor for dementia. The odds ratio is certainly high suggesting that gut bacteria may be a target for the prevention of dementia.”

We Have the Power

Some other researchers were skeptical of the study’s findings. They say much more research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.

Dr. Sara Imarisio is head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. Here’s what she says about it.

“To maintain a healthy brain as we age, the best current evidence suggests that we keep physically fit and eat a balanced diet.

“And maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, only drink within the recommended limits, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”

Keeping Body and Mind Sound

Great advice to follow. We should encourage our older loved ones to take care of themselves. But it’s crucial we do the same for ourselves.

Because being of sound mind is just as important as having healthy bodies. Let’s work on maintaining both.

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