Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common age-related health condition. When you blood pressure increases, it is hard on your heart and on your arteries. Turns out that high blood pressure can damage your brain as well, and not just from an increased risk of stroke.

People aged 60 and over with high blood pressure have a higher rate of cognitive decline and a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease than people with normal blood pressure. Using data from a national health survey, doctors discovered that men and women with healthy blood pressure showed the least amount of cognitive decline over time. Here are the numbers:

  • For people aged 60 to 69, a blood pressure of 120.80 mmHg did best.

  • For people aged 75 to 79, people under 140/90 mmHg had the best cognitive function.

  • For people 80 or over, moderate high blood pressure was best.

  • As you age, it is likely that you blood pressure will increase. Making that increase as small as possible will protect both your heart and your brain. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to aggressively manage it through a combination of lifestyle changes like healthy eating and relaxation along with medication when suggested by a doctor. Keeping your blood pressure in normal ranges will slow your brain's aging.

    Source: Thomas Olabode Obisesan MD, MPH, Odunayo Abiodun Obisesan PharmD, Sayyida Martins MD, Laila Alamgir MD, Vernon Bond PhD, Celia Maxwell MD, Richard Frank Gillum MD, MS (2008) High Blood Pressure, Hypertension, and High Pulse Pressure Are Associated with Poorer Cognitive Function in Persons Aged 60 and Older: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 56 (3), 501--509. M. Stibich,PhD.

    Alcohol and Brain Aging

    For a while now, we have been hearing that drinking moderately can help improve your life expectancy and longevity. It does this by helping to protect your heart. But what if alcohol also protected your brain? Turns out that a moderate amount of daily alcohol does just that. Alcohol can protect your brain, your mental health and your cognitive (thinking) abilities.

    Research shows that drinking moderately is better for you than drinking heavily or not drinking at all. Aim for around 2 servings of an alcoholic beverage a night (a serving is one glass of wine, one beer, one shot). Red wine is probably the best choice, as it has properties unrelated to alcohol that help slow aging.

    British researchers, whose findings were published in a 2007 issue of the journal Age and Ageing, were interested in exploring whether alcohol consumption improved mental and cognitive health. They examined over 6,000 people over the age of 50. These people were part of a large-scale study on aging. They were asked questions about their alcohol consumption and were grouped into three categories for analysis: consumption of one or fewer drinks per day, 2 or fewer drinks per day and more than two drinks per day. The researchers also examined the participants' cognitive abilities, well-being and signs of depression.

    Men and women in the 2 or fewer drinks per day group had better results for cognitive function, fewer signs of depression and a better sense of well-being. So go ahead and have 1 or 2 drinks a day if you want -- do it for your heart, and do it for your brain. Remember, however, not to overdo it -- and that alcohol can pack a good amount of calories.

    How much of an impact does a glass of red wine have on your waistline? Use Calorie Count to find out the number of calories in this and other alcoholic beverages.

    Source(s): Iain Lang, Robert B. Wallace, Felicia A. Huppert and David Melzer. Moderate alcohol consumption in older adults is associated with better cognition and well-being than abstinence. Age and Ageing 2007 36(3):256-261.