In a recent study by Australian researchers, changing blood pressure can increase the risk of heart problems and dementia in older people.
Led by the University of South Australia (UniSA), this research reveals that both short-term and long-term blood pressure fluctuations over hours, days, or weeks can potentially lead to issues with thinking.
Australian research found connection between fluctuating blood pressure and vascular problems & dementia in older people
Daria Gutteridge, the primary author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate affiliated with UniSA highlights that while the link between high blood pressure and dementia is widely recognized, fluctuating blood pressure hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
“Clinical treatments focus on hypertension, while ignoring the variability of blood pressure,” Gutteridge says.
“Blood pressure can fluctuate across different time frames – short and long – and this appears to heighten the risk of dementia and blood vessel health.”
The study uncovered a link between greater variations in systolic blood pressure (the top number measuring artery pressure during heartbeats) and the stiffening of arteries, a known factor in heart disease.
To better understand how blood pressure fluctuations connect to dementia, the research team engaged 70 seniors aged between 60 and 80. The seniors displayed no signs of dementia or cognitive problems.
These individuals participated in blood pressure monitoring, cognitive testing, and specialized tests to assess the stiffness of their brain and artery walls. Tools like transcranial doppler sonography and pulse wave analysis were used for these assessments.
The research findings have also been published in the journal Cerebral Circulation – Cognition and Behaviour.
The diverse biological origins of blood pressure fluctuations
The research shows that different types of blood pressure changes likely have distinct biological origins. For older adults, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers matter when it comes to their thinking abilities, according to the researchers.
They suggest that keeping an eye on blood pressure fluctuations might serve as an early indicator of cognitive issues or a target for potential treatments.
A 2017 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine indicated that controlling elevated blood pressure using medication brought the risk of dementia down to that of an individual with regular blood pressure who isn’t taking such medication.
Furthermore, engaging in more physical activity and participating in cognitive training can also reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.
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