Worried about dementia? You might want to start your day with this
(NPR) Every day, Dr. Walter Koroshetz, 65, takes a pill as part of his effort to help keep his brain healthy and sharp.
The pill is his blood pressure medication.
And Koroshetz, who directs the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, says controlling high blood pressure helps him reduce his risk of dementia.
He also keeps his blood pressure down by exercising, and paying attention to his weight and diet. “I’m a believer,” he says.
Koroshetz is urging other people with high blood pressure to follow his lead.
He’s responsible for the institute’s public health campaign called Mind Your Risks. Its goal is to let people know that there’s a link between high blood pressure, stroke and dementia.
When blood pressure rises, it strains the tiny blood vessels that keep brain cells alive, Koroshetz says.
“With every pulse of your heart, you are pushing blood into these very small blood vessels in the brain,” he says. And when the heart pushes too hard, as it does when blood pressure is elevated, it can cause damage that can lead to a stroke.
At least two large studies have revealed an alarming trend among stroke patients, Koroshetz says.
“If you had a stroke, even a small stroke, your risk of dementia within the next two years was greatly magnified,” he says. “So there’s something about having a stroke that drives a lot of the processes that give rise to dementia.”
The evidence is clearest for a type of dementia called vascular dementia. It occurs when something blocks or reduces the flow of blood to brain cells.
But high blood pressure also appears to increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with the accumulation of plaques and tangles in the brain. Read the full story at NPR.