High Blood Pressure In Mid-Life Increases Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease

High blood pressure levels in mid-life may increase an individuals odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease more than two-fold according to a study published in the British Medical Journal in June 2001.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kuopio in Finland, involved 1,449 middle aged participants from eastern Finland. Both blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels were recorded at the beginning of the study.

The participants were followed for an average of 21 years during which 57 (3.9%) of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that a high systolic and diastolic blood pressure at the beginning of the study were both associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later life.

A systolic blood pressure greater than 160 mmHg was associated with 2.8 times greater odds of Alzheimer’s disease compared to a a systolic blood pressure lower than 140 mmHg. A diastolic blood pressure greater than 95 mmHg was associated with a 1.7 fold increase in the odds of Alzheimer’s disease compared to a level lower than 90mmHg.

The researchers also found that high total cholesterol levels in mid life were associated with a significant increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A total cholesterol level greater than 6.5mmol/L was associated with a 2.2 fold increase in the odds of Alzheimer’s disease compared to a level below 6.5mmol/L.

It is believed that high blood pressure increases the risk of white-matter lesions in the brain which have been implicated in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It is also thought that high blood pressure may lead to a breakdown in the blood-brain barrier which prevents potentially harmful chemicals in the bloodstream from entering the brain. A leaky blood brain barrier is thought to allow amyloid beta to cross into the brain and accumulate in the form of plaques.

An optimal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and under 80 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. The systolic component of blood pressure is defined as the peak pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries while the diastolic component is the lowest pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries.

There are many things an individual can do to lower their blood pressure. The most common ways include increasing physical activity levels, reducing salt and caffeine consumption, quitting smoking, reducing stress levels, and losing weight.