high blood pressure
Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias
High blood pressure / hypertension

Hypertension and Dementia: A Frightening Connection

According to the National Institutes of Health, a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that uncontrolled high blood pressure is not only the leading cause of stroke but may also be linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

As a result, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), one of the institutes of NIH, is launching a public health education campaign called Mind Your Risks. The campaign is designed to raise awareness about how controlling the risk factors for stroke in middle age, particularly high blood pressure, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline later in life.\

NINDS is partnering with Million Hearts, an initiative by the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and also with the Administration for Community Living, and the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

“We hope that this campaign will lead people to think about how they can decrease their chances of developing dementia later in life. The Mind Your Risks campaign will offer some concrete prevention steps. Controlling hypertension is at the top of the list,” said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D. director of the NINDS.

Here are some of the key materials from the Know Your Risk campaign:

On a global scale, scientists are learning more about cellular changes in the brain that can lead to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to the NINDS, this research may someday lead to new treatments to prevent or slow the most serious forms of dementia. But in the meantime, evidence suggests that vascular dementia — one of the most common dementia diagnoses — may be preventable.

According to the campaign, vascular dementia usually occurs due to the cumulative impact of multiple strokes, including small “silent” strokes that occur unnoticed as we age. High blood pressure is the main culprit. Over time, high blood pressure weakens the arteries, leads to strokes, and may bring on processes in your body that can cause dementia. The campaign recommends being proactive about improving your chances of healthy brain aging. Here are some specifics:

Eat healthy and keep active. Following a healthy eating plan and keeping physically active on a regular basis will significantly lower your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic and debilitating health problems.

Quit smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart. Any amount of smoking, even light or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels.

Lower high cholesterol. Reducing your cholesterol will lower your risk for developing a wide variety of serious health issues, including stroke and heart disease.