Memories are important in life. One would say that our lives are only a collection of memories and how they have brought us to this point in the present.
Unfortunately, memory is destined to fade in people as they get older. In some cases though, people’s memories go way earlier than normal. Several memory conditions can come early, with several risk factors contributing to their development.
One risk factor we’ll be looking at today is high blood pressure. Does this factor contribute to the development of memory conditions like Alzheimer’s? Let’s find out.
What is Alzheimer’s?
For those who aren’t sure what this condition is, let’s cover the basics first.
This is a type of dementia, which is a broad term for memory conditions that arise from damage to the brain.
It specifically refers to plaques and tangles in the brain. Plaques are abnormal clusters of a protein called beta-amyloid. Tangles are twisted strands of another protein called tau. These proteins build up in the spaces between nerve cells and stop them from working properly.
As it progresses, more plaques and tangles form, making it difficult for the brain to function correctly – including remembering things – and ultimately causing death.
What Are Its Effects on People?
The effects of this condition can be physical, mental, and social in nature.
Some of the physical effects include weight loss, as well as problems with movement and coordination. People with this condition will have a hard time standing up, let alone walking. Their muscles will also feel very tired and stiff to the point where they cannot properly function.
They will also lose control of their bladder and bowels and are susceptible to seizures.
Mentally, people with this condition will have trouble with language, communication, and memory. This includes forgetting words or mixing them up, as well as long and short-term memory problems.
Simple tasks that were once easy to do, like cooking a meal or getting dressed, can become difficult and confusing.
As the disease progresses, people may also experience changes in mood and behaviour. They may become anxious, depressed, irritable, or suspicious of others.
This also takes a toll on social life. As the disease progression makes it difficult to communicate and remember things, people may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed and become socially isolated.
What Are Its Causes?
The cause is still relatively unknown, but there are some risk factors that may contribute to its development
Some of these include age, family history, and lifestyle choices. For example, people who smoke or have increased blood pressure are more likely to develop these brain conditions later in life.
While the cause is still unknown, researchers have found that higher blood pressures may be a contributing factor.
Is High Blood Pressure a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s?
Increased blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the force of blood against the walls of arteries is too high. This happens when there is too much salt in the diet, not enough physical activity, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol.
This type of blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death in the world.
According to a study done in 2015, higher blood pressure may also be a risk factor. The study found that people with increased blood pressure were more likely to develop dementia than those without.
What Does Hypertension Do to the Mind?
The strong flow of blood makes it into blood vessels. This damages these vessels, requiring them to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. The damage ultimately takes away efficiency.
If left unchecked, it will eventually damage and narrow the arteries. It will then lead to heart problems and strokes
A study done by Neurology looked into the brains of the elderly that had hypertension. Upon checking their brains, they found that there was an increased number of tangles and plaques due to strokes.
While this doesn’t exactly prove a causal link between the two, it does prove that hypertension increases the likelihood of these tangles and plaques invading the brain and affecting the person.
A Warning Against Low Blood Pressure
While higher blood pressures seem to lead to, or at least increase the risk, of these mental conditions, going lower isn’t the answer.
A study a few years back showed that elderly people with lower than normal blood pressures were also at risk of having their brains’ memory and cognition affected.
Thus, low pressure is also dangerous and can lead to negative effects on the brain. Both high and low blood pressure bring about their own set of risks.
The goal is always to maintain a balance in the Goldilocks zone: not too high and not too low.
How to Control Blood Pressure?
Since both high and low blood pressures are risk factors, it’s important to take steps to control them.
Eat a Healthy Diet
This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting salt, saturated fat, and sugar.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise helps to lower blood pressure by making the heart stronger. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity per week.
Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels and makes them less flexible, which can lead to increased blood pressure.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking too much alcohol can also increase blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men consume no more than two drinks per day and women consume no more than one drink per day.
Monitor Blood Pressure at Home
If you have a blood pressure problem, it’s important to monitor it at home. This can help you keep track of your progress and make sure that your blood pressure is under control. If it ever gets to uncontrollable levels or if it suddenly spikes and is causing detrimental symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
Be Aware of the Risk Factors
Apart from blood pressure, one’s diet, smoking, and alcohol intake, there are many more risk factors that can contribute to these conditions. It is important to be aware of them and use this knowledge to circumvent them and the memory problems down the line.
As we age, our risk of developing these conditions within our brains increases. This is because the longer we live, the more time we have to develop these conditions.
If you have a family member who is experiencing these conditions, you may be at an increased risk of developing these conditions yourself. This is especially true if the affected family member developed the condition at a young age.
While the link between head injuries and this condition is not fully understood, research has shown that there may be a connection between the two. One theory is that head injuries can cause a build-up of tau protein in the brain, which is one of the hallmark characteristics that cause memory loss and loss of coordination just to name a few.
Again, memories are precious. While memory loss comes for us sooner or later, it is important to do everything we can to hold on as long as possible. Preventing high blood pressure from developing Alzheimer’s will also help with many physical, mental, and social problems that are brought about.
Despite that, these conditions affect more people than we know. Be of service to those with these conditions by understanding the principles of first aid. This puts you in a position to help them if the need ever arises.
Learn more about first aid through CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course.