Sean Cate
Sean Cate
July 6, 2024 ·  3 min read

Blood Pressure Variability Linked to Increased Dementia Risk

Recent research has highlighted a significant link between blood pressure variability and the risk of developing dementia. Understanding this connection is key for early identification and prevention strategies. This article looks at the findings of several key studies on blood pressure and its implications for dementia risk.

1. Understanding Blood Pressure Variability

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The term refers to the fluctuations in readings over time. These fluctuations can be influenced by various factors, including cardiovascular, nervous, and endocrine system changes, as well as environmental factors. Variability is measured using systolic pressure (the higher number indicating pressure in the arteries when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the lower number indicating pressure when the heart rests between beats).1

Read More: Why You Shouldn’t Mix Decongestants and Blood Pressure Medication

2. Hospitalized Patients and Dementia Risk

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A study by Cedars-Sinai investigators found that hospitalized patients with fluctuating blood pressure were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia than those with stable blood pressure.2 The study reviewed health records of 81,892 hospitalized patients and found that those with variable blood pressure had a higher incidence of dementia within two years post-discharge.

3. Blood Pressure Variability in Later Life

Young woman nurse doctor gp holding stethoscope examining old senior 60s grandma patient check heartbeat at homecare checkup medical visit at home hospital, older people cardiology healthcare concept
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Research published in JAMA Network Open reported that variability in later life is linked with a higher lifetime risk for dementia. This association was not observed in midlife variabilities. The study tracked 820 participants aged 65 and older over several years, concluding that year-by-year blood pressure changes in late life correlated with a 35% higher risk of developing dementia by age 90.3

4. The Biology Behind It All

heart-brain connection
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The exact biological processes linking blood pressure variability to dementia are still under investigation. One hypothesis suggests that fluctuations in blood pressure might damage the small blood vessels in the brain, leading to cognitive decline. This vascular damage could impair blood flow to the brain, contributing to the development of dementia.

Read More: 20 Best Foods To Help Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

5. Importance of Blood Pressure Management

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Maintaining stable blood pressure is essential not only for cardiovascular health but also for reducing dementia risk. Dr. Joseph Ebinger from Cedars-Sinai emphasizes that practices contributing to good cardiovascular health can also improve dementia risk profiles. Regular monitoring and management of blood pressure variability are crucial steps in this process.

6. Recommendations for Reducing Blood Pressure Variability

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Health experts recommend several lifestyle changes to reduce variability and, consequently, dementia risk. These include regular physical activity, a balanced diet low in salt, moderation in alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, and managing stress effectively.4 Medication adherence is also critical for those prescribed blood pressure-lowering drugs.

7. Future Research Directions

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Ongoing studies aim to further understand the relationship between blood pressure variability and dementia. Researchers like Dr. Zaldy Tan and his colleagues at Cedars-Sinai are continuing to investigate this link with larger patient cohorts and longer tracking periods. The goal is to refine prevention strategies and improve early identification of individuals at risk.

Conclusion

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Blood pressure variability is a significant, yet often overlooked, risk factor for dementia. With understanding and management, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their cognitive health as they age. Regular health check-ups, lifestyle modifications, and medication adherence are crucial in maintaining stable blood pressure and reducing the risk of dementia.

Read More: Blood Pressure is Lowered Best By These 2 Exercises, Study

Sources

  1. Study Links Blood Pressure Variability With Dementia.” Cedars. April 5, 2023.
  2. Year-by-Year Blood Pressure Variability From Midlife to Death and Lifetime Dementia Risk.” JAMA Network. Melina G. H. E. den Brok, MD, et al. October 30, 2023.
  3. Dementia Risk Linked to High Blood Pressure Variability in Later Years. Healthline. Nancy Schimelpfening, MS. October 30, 2023
  4. Blood pressure variability is a major predictor of heart attack and stroke risk, finds analysis.” Medical Xpress. Ryan O’Hare. January 31, 2024.