You may FEEL perfectly healthy. But if your BP is soaring, it could be wreaking havoc on your body in ways you’ll never even notice (at least, not until it’s too late).
That’s why they call hypertension the “silent killer,” because it can quietly damage blood vessels throughout your body — without any obvious symptoms.
Typically, the top concern with BP on the higher end is that it ups your risk of a heart attack that strikes without warning. But according to a new study, all that pressure in your “pipes” can ALSO pave the way to brain changes that are linked to dementia.
And it can happen YEARS before you have any symptoms.
The study involved about 140 patients aged 40 to 65, none of whom had been diagnosed with dementia. In participants with hypertension — a systolic (“top”) number greater than 140 mmHG — MRIs revealed early evidence of the very same neurological damage that we see in dementia.
More specifically, the hypertensive folks showed microscopic damage in their brains’ white matter — which refers to the millions of bundles of nerve fibers in your brain that help neurons in different areas communicate with one another.
Those with hypertension also scored worse on tests of memory and executive function when compared to participants whose “top number” was below 140 mmHG.
Now, a diagnosis of hypertension is somewhat of a moving target — because the “goal posts” for what’s considered dangerously high BP keep shifting.
But a new study published in the European Heart Journal shows that higher-than-normal blood pressure in midlife boosts your risk of dementia even if it’s BELOW the threshold of an “official” hypertension diagnosis.
In that study, when researchers measured the blood pressure of over 8,500 participants four times over the course of four decades, they found that those whose systolic BP was greater than 130 mmHg at age 50 had a 45 percent HIGHER risk of developing dementia than those whose systolic BP was lower at the same age.
Now, take that with a grain of salt. If you’re over 50… or even over 65… your blood pressure can naturally go up over time. And that’s usually not a cause for concern.
Plus, we don’t know how the BP was being measured each of those four times in that second study… and really, it was only four times. And we don’t know whether the participants’ BP was actually spiking higher than that at any point between measurements.
A better way is to measure it consistently at home, where you’re comfortable, instead of in a doctor’s office – an environment that often causes artificially high BP readings, a phenomenon known as “white coat syndrome.”
If you choose to rely only on what your doc finds, ask him or his staff to take your BP a second time. As I recently shared with you, that second reading is often lower and more accurate.
And if it turns out that your BP is consistently (and dangerously) high, bring it down to a more reasonable level by making some simple lifestyle changes like losing weight, moving around a bit more, and supplementing your diet with tart cherry juice and cinnamon.