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Alzheimer’s Insights: Blood Pressure and Alzheimer’s

What makes your blood pressure (BP) rise?   Traffic?  Your favorite sports team blowing an easy win? (I’m talking to you, San Francisco 49ers fans) Loss of internet service?   

These things happen in everyday life, and it’s usually only temporary.  You get over it, and return to normal.

But what if your BP is stuck above normal?  Normal, by the way, is less than 120 on the upper number (systolic), and less than 80 on the lower number (diastolic).  Elevated BP is 120-129 over less than 80; Stage One hypertension, or high blood pressure, is 130-139 over 80-89.  Stage Two hits 140 or above over 50 or higher, and Stage Three is 180 over 120 or higher.

One-third of U.S. adults have hypertension, and another third has pre-hypertension.  Not only is this a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, but also a risk factor for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), one of the earliest stages in an Alzheimer’s Disease IR vascular dementia diagnosis.

Your heart and your brain are so closely linked that conditions that damage or harm one, can affect the other.  High blood pressure can damage and scar the myriad of tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to brain cells.  A damaged delivery system means parts of the brain may also become damaged due to loss of oxygen and nutrients.

Frighteningly, this can begin in midlife – ages 45-65 – and eventually may be associated with memory and movement problems related to vascular dementia.

Initial symptoms of vascular dementia are more likely to be impaired judgment and decision making, rather than the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s.

While Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, vascular dementia is the second most common cause.  

If you don’t know your blood pressure, get it checked.

There is more information here about the Alzheimer’s Association SPRINT MIND study on healthy hearts and brains.

 If you have a question about Alzheimer’s disease, you can always call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information. 

 

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

Scott Finley is Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at scfinley@alz.org