A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds a link. About one in three elderly Americans has high blood pressure, and Dr. Tara Narula says reducing that number could potentially reduce the number of people suffering from dementia.
"Dementia affects about 10% of Americans over 65," Narula told CBS this morning on Wednesday. "We don't have many major treatments or preventative measures. And many people are unaware that hypertension or high blood pressure may be associated with a future risk of dementia. And this is something that is potentially variable." [1
"They found two models that were associated with an increased risk of dementia," Narula said. "The first was when you had high pressure in middle life, which is from the 50s to 60s, which persists into your later life. The second model is if you had high pressure in middle life, but after you have developed very low blood pressure in recent years. And from a low I means less than 90 over 60. "
Narula said that these findings underscore the importance of hypertension being potentially variable.
"We can really make a huge impact on public health by controlling this," Narula said. "We have to start this early, in our 40s and 50s. And as for the older population, we need to do more research to find out what the ideal blood pressure is when you get older."  So what can you do to control your blood pressure? The first step is to find out what your blood pressure numbers are.
"You have to start reviewing yourself early," Narula said. "We are actually telling people in their 20s that you should start examining yourself. You need to know your numbers, have such a close relationship with your doctor, where, if you have high blood pressure, you check frequently." Lifestyle changes such as reducing your salt intake, increasing your potassium, exercising, controlling your weight, and reducing or stopping alcohol consumption and smoking can also help. Taking the medications you are prescribed is also key.
"High blood pressure is asymptomatic for many people," Narula said. "You feel good and you think, 'I really don't have high blood pressure' or 'I may have had it for a while, but I'm fine now. No need to take my medication. "But what it does is damage that high blood pressure damages all blood vessels that deliver blood to your entire body."
And that damage can lead to countless problems.
"This is associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease. Stroke, heart attack, heart failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction," Narula said. "Wherever there is an artery in your body that sees high pressure, it has the potential to damage those cells."
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