High blood pressure doesn’t just put your heart in danger—research shows high blood pressure also raises the risk of dementia symptoms. On the flip side, there’s evidence that keeping blood pressure levels in check can actually prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, having healthy blood pressure levels from mid-life and on is one of the best anti-dementia defenses. So, don’t let high blood pressure mess with your mind!
How does high blood pressure cause dementia symptoms?
High blood pressure damages and scars the tiny blood vessels in the brain. Over time, this scarring builds up, causing lesions in the white matter of the brain that in time can lead to dementia symptoms. White matter consists mainly of nerve fibers and is important for brain communication. A 2010 study revealed brain scans of women with high blood pressure—readings of 140 over 90 or higher—showed scarring in the brain. The study looked at more than 1,400 women ages 65 and older with high blood pressure. The results indicated the worse the blood pressure over time, the more significant the degree of lesions.
A 2011 study also showed a link between high blood pressure and dementia symptoms. The study looked at men and women aged 55 and older with Mild Cognitive Impairment, also known as “pre-dementia.” The participants also had conditions that put them at risk for vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygen in the brain. By the end of the five-year study, almost half of the participants progressed from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer’s. Researchers showed those with vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. However, the participants who received treatment for their vascular risk factor were almost 40 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who received no treatment.
Strategies to lower blood pressure
The take-home message, according to researchers, is that high blood pressure and heart disease prevention can translate into Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s prevention. Strategies to lower blood pressure include:
- Exercising regularly—at least 30 minutes a day, two to three days per week.
- Limiting salt intake to below 1,500 mg per day and eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. A diet rich in potassium derived from eight or more servings of vegetables and fruits is associated with lower blood pressure. A potassium-to-sodium ratio of two-to-one is also associated with healthier blood pressure ranges. Use sea salt, keep salt intake in a healthy range, and eat ample produce, including such potassium-rich fruits and vegetables as apricots, avocadoes, bananas, prunes, yams and sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, chard, and beets.
- Losing weight. Contrary to conventional opinion, a low-carb diet has been shown to lower high blood pressure and be a successful weight loss strategy.
- Managing insulin resistance or diabetes. Again, a lower-carb diet can help manage blood sugar and hence high blood pressure.
- Limiting intake of processed foods.
- Getting enough sleep. Sufficient sleep is necessary to keep blood pressure levels healthy by keeping stress hormones regulated.
- Cutting back on alcohol intake.
- Quitting smoking.
- Addressing food intolerances. Eating foods to which you are intolerant is a stressor.
- Seeking chiropractic care and acupuncture treatments.
- Balancing hormones.
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine.
Some nutritional and botanical compounds have also been shown to help lower blood pressure:
- One study found hypertensive patients who took supplemental vitamin D in winter were able to lower their blood pressure compared to the control group.
- Resveratrol is linked in the literature with lowering blood pressure at a daily dose of 150 mg.
- Ginger, at doses of 75–2,000 mg a day, can not only lower inflammation but also relax the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.
- Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is also an anti-inflammatory that can help relax and dilate the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. The recommended dose is 400–600 mg of curcumin powder three times a day.
- A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which is found in fish and raw nuts and seeds, is associated with lower blood pressure.
The truth is that normalizing blood pressure levels usually takes a combination of strategies for success. Fortunately, integrative physicians and research study groups have found some very effective and safe natural healing approaches to getting blood pressure levels back in balance. These normalize blood pressure levels by addressing the underlying causes to blood pressure problem. Thus, your body can benefit from these natural healing strategies without negative side effects. To learn more about natural strategies to effective blood pressure control, view our resources on the topic.
 European Society of Hypertension (2012, April 25). Vitamin D supplements can reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
 Cell Metabolism. November 2011.
 Kuller et al. “Relationship of Hypertension, Blood Pressure, and Blood Pressure Control With White Matter Abnormalities in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) — MRI Trial.” Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 2009.
 “Treating high blood pressure may delay Alzheimer’s.” By Kathleen Doheny. Webmd.com. April 13, 2011.
 “A Randomized Trial of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet vs Orlistat Plus a Low-Fat Diet for Weight Loss.” Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(2):136-145.
 “Low-Carb Beats Low-Fat in Short Term Diet Comparison.” By Becky Oskin. Inside Duke University. May 31, 2004.
This blog originally appeared in 2012 and has been updated.