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The Startling Side Effect of High Blood Pressure, Says Study

The link between high blood pressure and dementia, according to study. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

High blood pressure doesn't make the headlines as much as other health concerns, but it's a serious issue that millions struggle with. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, "Nearly half of adults in the United States (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg or are taking medication for hypertension." When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause major health problems like "wear and tear of blood vessels, heart attack, kidney damage, and stroke," Dr. Rahul Aggarwal, Interventional cardiologist, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center part of the Palm Beach Health Network tells us. In addition, according to one study, high blood pressure has been linked to a startling side effect. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


High Blood Pressure and the Link to Dementia

Close up of mature woman look in distance thinking.

Christian Benedict, Associate Professor at Uppsala University's Department of Neuroscience, and senior author of the study, explained in a press release accompanying the study shares that researchers observed 1000 Swedish older men who were followed for 24 years. The study revealed that blood pressure can vary throughout the day with lower readings at night that researchers called "dipping." "The risk of getting a dementia diagnosis was 1.64 times higher among men with reverse dipping compared to those with normal dipping. Reverse dipping mainly increased the risk of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia," says Xiao Tan, postdoctoral fellow from the same department and first author of this research.

The Alzheimer's Society states, "Long-term research studies have demonstrated that high blood pressure in mid-life is a key factor that can increase your risk of developing dementia in later life, particularly vascular dementia. These findings highlight that a lifelong approach to good health as the best way to lower your risk of dementia."

John Hopkins also reports, "In 2013, investigators showed that older people with high blood pressure, or hypertension , were more likely to have biomarkers of Alzheimer's in their spinal fluid. Another study found that the more blood pressure varied over an eight-year period, the greater the risk of dementia." 

Dr. Aggarwal says, "Having high blood pressure can cause more wear and tear on a person's blood vessels which can lead to a heart attack. Reverse dipping, when a person has high blood pressure at night, could be associated with dementia. Right now, the study shows a correlation but not causation. Taking prescribed medication to regulate your blood pressure at night can reduce your risk of stroke at night, and having regular blood pressure at night seems to be better."


Dangers of Having High Blood Pressure

Senior Male Patient Using Digital Tablet In Hospital Bed

Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician, Carbon Health and Saint Mary's Hospital adds, "High blood pressure increases your risks for many diseases such as heart, kidney, brain, and eye disease. The diagnosis of hypertension can increase your risks of hospitalization and death."  


Who is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

Health visitor and a senior man during home visit.

Dr. Aggarwal shares, "Those most at risk for high blood pressure include those with diabetes, the older population, smokers and those with obesity. Genetics also play a factor."

Dr. Curry-Winchell states, "People who have a personal or family history of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease, those not eating a well-balanced diet (high saturated fats), little to no physical activity described as sedentary lifestyle. If you are consuming alcohol above what is considered moderate consumptions and tobacco dependent this could make you at-risk."


What Causes High Blood Pressure?

man eating a burger

According to Dr. Aggarwal, "High blood pressure is caused by the stiffening of the arteries. It can be caused by a person not eating healthy, eating too much salt, and eating too many carbs."

Dr. Curry-Winchell  explains, "Blood pressure refers to the normal amount of pressure within the walls of your blood vessels-specifically your arteries. When your blood pressure increases the arteries become rigid reducing the amount of blood flowing to the organs."  


How to Help Prevent High Blood Pressure


Dr. Aggarwal explains, "The best ways to prevent high blood pressure are being aware of what your blood pressure number is, clean eating, maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring your salt intake, monitoring your carbohydrate intake, and intermittent fasting."

Dr. Curry-Winchell says, "Checking your blood pressure is key. Hypertension is a silent disease and will not always present with "warning" symptoms. Discuss your blood pressure reading with a health care provider. They can provide guidance on next steps to prevent or treat hypertension."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather