Improve Your Blood Pressure Now For Better Brain Health Later

In your circulatory system, blood pressure is the force of blood moving through your veins. It carries oxygen-rich cells to all parts of your body.

When you get your blood pressure checked, they are measuring how hard the blood is pushing against the wall of the arteries when your heart is beating, and when it is resting in between beats. But did you know that one in three American adults has high blood pressure, which doctors call hypertension? This puts affected adults at risk for a stroke or heart disease, which are among the leading causes of U.S.deaths.

To make matters worse, hypertension has been linked to dementia. Recent research shows a cognitive decline with dementia is higher in people in their 30s and 40s paired with hypertension.

pressure valve to represent blood pressure
You don’t have meters installed to catch blood pressure spikes, so learn to be proactive.

Having high blood pressure this early in life continuously creates blood vessel damage in the brain. These are typically called white matter lesions. If enough nerve cells are damaged by high blood pressure, then memory cannot be restored.

Blood Flow in the Brain 

The brain typically receives about 20% of the body’s blood supply, which carries oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients to give it energy. If this blood flow is blocked somehow or reduced, such as with high blood pressure, the brain is damaged. 

One study found that even just slightly higher blood pressure (which is 120/80) could increase the risk of dementia. While another study found that women in their 40s with high blood pressure were 73% more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have hypertension. But now there is a risk of overall cognitive decline, including memory and processing speeds.

What Recent Studies Suggest

In a study published in The Lancet Neurology, a team checked the blood pressure of over 500 participants that ranged from the ages of 36 to 69 years old. None of the participants had dementia. The results showed that people between 36 and 43, and 43 to 53 had a greater than normal increase in blood pressure and a smaller brain volume later in life. 

People who had higher blood pressure in their 30s and 40s had a 7-15% increase in white matter lesions in their brains. 

“We found that higher and rising blood pressure between the ages of 36 and 53 had the strongest associations with smaller brain volume and increases in white matter brain lesions in later life,” he continues. “We speculate that these changes may, over time, result in a decline in brain function, for example, impairments in thinking and behavior, so making the case for targeting blood pressure in mid-life, if not earlier.”

Can You Lower Your Chances Of Cognitive Decline?

Well, as far as the clinical trials say, there is no medical proof showing that controlling high blood pressure through drugs or lifestyle changes can prevent the decline in cognition or dementia.

stress written in red ink for blood pressure
Stress plays a role in your blood pressure too. Don’t just hit the gym, meditate to lower blood pressure.

However, the landmark Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which included 9,300 participants, ended in 2015 with a positive finding about blood pressure control and heart health: Lowering systolic blood pressure to less than 120 (which is below the hypertension threshold of 140) significantly reduced the number of deaths and cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, in nondiabetic adults age 50 and older. Similar results were found for about 2,600 participants aged 75 and older.

What You Can Do

Although there has been some skepticism on if you can do anything to lower your chances of dementia, it is important to get your blood pressure down. Hypertension is not good for your brain, heart, and body, in general. You can still lower your chances of a stroke, heart disease, and more by following these guidelines:

  • Diet– Your diet plays a major role. Make sure to eat things with lower salt and sodium. Sodium intake should not exceed 1,500 mg a day. Reduce, and cut out processed foods altogether, and instead eat as many vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and fish that you can. 


  • ExerciseExercise can lower your blood pressure. Try to walk at least 30 minutes a day, and other moderate exercises. Keeping your weight down can help drop points in your blood pressure.


  • Limit Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- Using ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs can raise blood pressure, especially in older people.

Good Friends Offer More Than A Good Time, They Offer Better Brain Health!

If you are a fan of the Golden Girls, then you know that having good friends keeps you going. According to research, this is especially true for “SuperAgers.” SuperAgers are people in their 80s or older who have great cognitive function, similar to that of the average middle-aged individual. Scientists measured that SuperAgers lose brain volume slower than other people their age because of their active lifestyle, and having close friends.

Silhouette of a omwn and woman facing each other with a white circle in their heads and a black heart in the middle of the circle.
Social relationships mprove brain function, as well as reducing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Social relationships are essential, not only for improving brain function, but also reducing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The Study Of SuperAgers

Emily Rogalski, an associate professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, is one expert studying SuperAgers. She, among others, examined SuperAgers for nine years in order to understand their superior cognitive health. The group would fill out surveys every couple of years, and get tests and brain scans done. 

The brain scans showed that these older individuals had thicker cortexes, a resistance to age-related atrophy, and a larger left anterior cingulate (a part of the brain important to attention and working memory). Also, out of the surveys given, one thing stood out among all participants- reports of satisfying, warm, and trusting relationships.

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘if you have a strong social network, you’ll never get Alzheimer’s disease,’” says Dr. Rogalski. “But if there is a list of healthy choices one can make, such as eating a certain diet and not smoking, maintaining strong social networks may be an important one on that list.”

Other Habits

Large bowl in the middle filled with lettuce, with little bowls surrounding it filled with fuits and vegetables.
SuperAgers are more active, and eat healthy diets that improve brain function.

Through the study, researchers noted that social engagement was not the only factor in improved brain function. SuperAgers were more active than other people their age, not just physically, but mentally as well. The participants engaged in mental activity such as Sudoku and other forms of brain teasers to stimulate and engage their brains on a daily basis. The last thing is to eat a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

As people age, keeping up with their social life can be difficult, especially when there are obstacles to go through, such as work, finances, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. However, as you get older, it has been proven that your social interactions might just keep your brain young. Take the time to call your good friends, make plans to see each other, and stay as social as you can. Life is busy, but your friends will keep you young, literally.