All older adults have one wish in common-to be as healthy as possible and make a visit to the doctor as infrequently as possible. Ironically, both these wishes are not granted in many people’s case as wishing for good health is not too much to ask for but there is a compulsive need to understand that granting these wishes are not magical. “As you sow, so shall you reap” remains unshaken here too. It makes no sense to pray for a healthy ageing process when your younger years were filled with binge eating practices, no-exercise weeks and an unhealthy lifestyle. The body’s metabolism and energy are maximized during younger years, bone health reaches its peak by the age of 30 after which the body starts using the stored bone density and functioning of other organs too depend on the food you eat and the exercise you do. So, if your younger years were filled with healthy routines maybe you would be good enough to minimize your health risks but if otherwise, you are in for a toss!
We are well-aware that cognitive skills decline and the risk for dementia increases as a person grows old but what we miss out is the fact that here too, our use of brain skills, activeness quotient and exercise routines play an integral role in deciding our risk of dementia.
Hypertension’s Effect on Cognition
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people face difficulties in thinking, remembering and reasoning than what’s normal for people their age. This can never be on par with dementia and its side effects on the human mind and body which is grueling and frustration. But MCI can be considered as a precursor to dementia. Maybe, something similar to a prediabetes stage where this exists as a precursor to diabetes.
High blood pressure remains a top threat to mankind in terms of not only ruining a person’s physical fitness but also makes the individual take stress and affect the mind’s ability to calm down. Hypertension exists as the gateway to stroke, heart diseases and kidney failure too. Proving to be the ‘silent killer’ any person with high BP is always at an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia later in life. While there are various studies supporting this theory there are none proving that control of blood pressure levels reduces the risk of dementia. To prove this, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) was organized. This was a large, randomized trial that took into comparison both, an intensive blood pressure control (systolic reading of less than 120 mmHg) and a standard target (systolic pressure of less than 140 mmHg). All the participants were aged above 50 years with high risk for cardiovascular problems but were devoid of any history of stroke or diabetes at the start of the trial. The study started in Nov 2010 and until March 2013 almost 9,300 participants were assigned to either intensive or standard treatment.
Results showed that there were fewer cases of dementia diagnosed in the intensive treatment group than the standard treatment group (149 vs 176) but what keeps us doubting is the fact that there was no clear demarcation to prove whether this happened by chance or not.
There was a concept simultaneously tried on the participants called as SPRINT Memory & Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (SPRINT MIND). The core of the concept was that it wanted to know whether intensive blood pressure control could reduce the risk of developing dementia and MCI. While the study on BP management guidelines stopped earlier than expected, MCI and dementia were explored for the complete term of five years. And, because the BP management intervention was stopped sooner than expected all the participants received treatment for a shorter period than originally planned.
Intensive treatment also benefitted the brain as it reduced the risk of MCI by 20%. Preventive measures for heart health, diabetes and cancer have improved dramatically during recent times. We hope that similar interventions for protecting ourselves against dementia or at least reduce the risk as much as possible become a reality sooner or later in life. Controlling the disease even before risk factors appear and throwing them down the gutter is essential to lead a heathy life. Meanwhile, individuals should focus on minimizing their BP risks, take precautious steps to maintain blood pressure levels, set up goals and try ways to fulfill these goals. There are diets such as the DASH diet that have been specifically designed for controlling high BP levels. Dietitians & nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com can help you control your elevated blood pressure levels with the help of a proper diet plan and exercise routine suiting your body requirements.
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