Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to email@example.com.
QUESTION: My husband, 62, has high blood pressure and heart disease, and as if that weren’t enough to worry about, now I hear it can affect his brain, too.
How does that work, and what can he do to protect himself?
— Kay D., Iowa City, Iowa
ANSWER: You’re right. High blood pressure is a threat to more than heart health. It endangers blood vessels everywhere, including in the brain. Fortunately, we have powerful lifestyle and medical remedies available.
A study recently published in Neurology found that high blood pressure late in life (65-plus) boosted the risk for constriction/blockage in the brain’s blood vessels that are associated with vascular dementia by 46 percent when participants’ top/systolic blood pressure number was 147, compared with participants with a mean level of 134.
The researchers also found that elevated systolic blood pressure increased Alzheimer’s disease-associated tangles in the brain.
Unfortunately, 50 percent of older folks with high blood pressure aren’t receiving beneficial treatment. In a 2013 study, researchers found that taking potassium-sparing diuretics reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly 75 percent, and taking any type of antihypertensive medication lowered the risk by about a third. Some of the meds also made Alzheimer’s, once diagnosed, less likely to progress.
But folks in their 40s and 50s don’t get off any easier. Elevated blood pressure in middle age increases their risk of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease — especially when accompanied by elevated lousy LDL cholesterol.
A study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association meeting recently found that when systolic blood pressure was lowered to 120, folks were 19 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive and info-processing problems, and 15 percent less likely to eventually develop cognitive decline and dementia.
>> Eat unprocessed foods, whole grains and lean proteins.
>> Lose weight if you need to; weight gain increases blood pressure.
>> Get in 10,000 steps or the equivalent daily.
>> Get your blood pressure checked regularly.
>> If you already have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to find the right antihypertensive medications for you.