The One Benefit Of High Blood Pressure? It May Prevent Dementia

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Having high blood pressure — also known as hypertension – is considered to be a serious cardiovascular condition. Having high blood pressure means your blood is pushing too hard against your artery wall when it circulates throughout your body and this, in turn, can pose a threat to your arteries. Associated with heart attacks and strokes, hypertension affects more than 30 percent of American adults.

Now, a new study from the University of California, Irvine has found a benefit of high blood pressure. According to researchers, those with high blood pressure may have a lower risk of dementia; their study found that individuals with the highest readings had the lowest likelihood of acquiring the disease.

“In our study, high blood pressure is not a risk factor for dementia in the oldest old, but just the opposite,” said Maria Corrada, an associate adjunct professor in the department of neurology, to Healthday.

According to the World Health Organization, dementia impacts 35.6 million people around the world, and this number is estimated to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. The brain illness typically affects older people, but it is not a normal part of aging. WHO also notes that treating dementia is an economic burden on many countries. In the United States, the costs affiliated with the condition are roughly $604 billion per year.

The findings of the UC Irvine study, which was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, are significant because they contradict the conclusions of previous research on the effects of dementia in middle-age subjects. In these studies, elevated blood pressure readings in middle age are associated with an increased risk of various types of dementia. But the new study found that in later age, blood pressure may have a positive effect and protect people from dementia.

“On the basis of this work we are absolutely not recommending that high blood pressure not be treated among the elderly,” said Corrada, per Healthday. “What we are saying is that from observing a group of very old people we now have some evidence that developing high blood pressure at a late age may be helpful in terms of maintaining intact thinking abilities.”

In their study of 625 subjects, with an average age of 93, the researchers found that patients who acquired high blood pressure between ages 80 to 89 had a lower risk of dementia than those with normal blood pressure readings. And in subjects who acquired high blood pressure in their 90s, the risk of dementia was even lower. It should be noted that two-thirds of the patients were women, and the results were also seen in subjects who were on medications to treat high blood pressure.

“It could be that high blood pressure improves the blood flow to their brain. … But we don’t know,” said Corrada to Healthday. “It will certainly require more study to better understand the mechanism behind this.”

Added Corrada: “Now it should be said that people who survive to age 90 and above are, by definition, very different than people who survive to their 70s or 80s. Obviously, they didn’t have stroke or heart disease that took their lives. Or maybe they didn’t have it at all. And more specifically, these may be people who have developed high blood pressure now, but did not struggle with it throughout their life.”

Speaking of dementia, recently, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that cinnamon can protect the brain from Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination. The study, published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, found that when the human body processes the spice, a chemical compound called sodium benzoate is formed.

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