Newsbriefs: Blood Pressure & Dementia Risk; Intense Anger & Heart Attack Risk; Prostate Cancer & Dementia

News and views that affect your mind, mood and memory.

Sudden Drops in Blood Pressure May Signal Greater Dementia Risk

Orthostatic hypotension—a sudden drop in blood pressure that occurs when rising to a standing position—may be tied to a greater risk for dementia, according to a large Dutch study published online Oct. 11, 2016 in the journal PLoS Medicine. The condition, defined as a sudden drop of more than 20mmHg in systolic blood pressure or 10 mmHg in diastolic pressure within three minutes of standing up from a resting position, may cause dizziness, head rushes, and sometimes a more rapid heartbeat. Previous research suggests that the reduction in blood flow to the brain that accompanies orthostatic hypotension can contribute to memory problems and declines in brain function in older individuals. The researchers analyzed 24 years of data on more than 6,204 older participants in a long-term study and found a 15-percent relative increase in the incidence of all types of dementia in participants who had experienced orthostatic hypotension. Although the cause of the association is not clear, the researchers suggested that the link between orthostatic hypotension and increased dementia risk may be related to the negative effects of oxygen deprivation on brain tissue. Proper control of blood pressure is recommended to help protect the brain from this and other potentially negative effects.

Intense Anger Can Increase Heart Attack Risk

It’s true—flying into a rage can increase your chances of having a heart attack, new research suggests. In a study involving more than 12,000 first-time heart attack patients, re-searchers found that participants who reported experiencing intense emotions such as anger were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack within the hour following the emotional distress as they were on a similar occasion when they did not experience emotional distress. When intense emotions are combined with intense physical activity, the risk rises by a factor of three, according to a paper published Oct. 11, 2016 in the journal Circulation. The increased heart attack risk linked to anger or emotional upset may be related to physiological changes that accompany these intense feelings, such as increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, and more rapid heartbeat. These factors may lead to the rupture of fatty plaques that line artery walls, cutting off the flow of blood to the heart and triggering a heart attack. The lead researcher recommended that people with risk factors for heart attack consider minimizing their risk by learning appropriate ways of dealing with their emotions—for example, through meditation or breathing and relaxation exercises, or by participating in anger and stress management programs.

Hormone Treatments for Prostate Cancer May Make Dementia More Likely

Men who receive testosterone-lowering drugs as part of their treatment for prostate cancer may face twice the risk of developing dementia as healthy men. That’s the troubling conclusion of a study of the effects of the treatment, known as androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT), among approximately 1,826 men with prostate cancer. The research, which was published in the Oct. 13, 2016 online issue of JAMA Oncology, compared the ADT participants with over 7,000 similar participants who were treated with surgery, “watchful waiting,” or another treatment instead of the hormone therapy. They found that while the normal risk of developing dementia was only 3.5 percent among men who did not receive ADT, in those who did receive the treatment, nearly 8 percent developed dementia within five years of treatment. ADT, which works by reducing levels of male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone, is widely used in prostate cancer treatment in the U.S. However, recent research has uncovered evidence that androgens may be important to brain health. Studies have linked low testosterone levels with a reduction in the ability of brain cells to repair themselves, and with increased risk of tiny cerebral strokes that can con-tribute to dementia. The researchers stressed that the influence of hormones on health is very complex and that their findings did not reveal a cause-and-effect relationship between hormone treatments and dementia. “We certainly wouldn’t recommend changes in clinical care based on this study,” said the lead researcher, who called for further research to confirm the findings.

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