High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S.  A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. According to the National Institute of Health, about two-thirds of people over age 65 have high blood pressure. 

We know that high blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke.  But a new study has shown that high blood pressure in people with a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease may spur development of brain plaque, a hallmark of the age-related brain disorder.

"Maintaining good vascular health by avoiding or controlling diseases like hypertension has important benefits beyond keeping your heart healthy. It may promote good brain health as we age," said lead researcher Karen Rodrigue, an assistant professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.

This is especially so for people who are genetically at risk for Alzheimer's disease, the study suggested. "Keeping good vascular health may limit or delay the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease and other aging-related neurological deterioration," Rodrigue said.

High blood pressure is highly responsive to lifestyle changes and it may provide a future target for delaying or preventing Alzheimer's disease, the researchers noted.

Most people who live to be 100 have low-risk blood pressure readings.  If a normal blood pressure of 110/70 were the goal of all health care, the hardening of the arteries that occurs with age may not even take place.  

If you have the possibility of a genetic predisposition towards Alzheimer’s Disease, you will want to do all you can to maintain a blood pressure of 110/70, naturally, i.e., without medication.  

If you have not had your blood pressure checked in the past 3 months, it is time to recheck.  You can make an appointment with your physician, go to a local pharmacywith a self-help blood pressure machine or even make a dental appointment as most dental offices will check your blood pressure at each visit. 

Lifestyle changes can prevent and control high blood pressure. These include losing weight if overweight, increasing physical activity, following a healthy eating plan, that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation. 

© 2013 Melinda Coker
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