Studies have shown that high blood pressure in midlife increases the risk of dementia later in life. What has not been clear is whether this risk differs for men and women.
Studies show that women with high blood pressure in midlife are more likely than men to develop dementia later on.
Dementia is more likely to develop in women with high blood pressure that never go into remission than those who do.
This could be related to the role estrogens play in maintaining brain health. It may reflect differences in how hypertension affects brains differently depending on whether a person has had children.
More research needs to be done before saying anything definitive about this issue because there is not enough data yet available from studies looking at sex-specific associations between cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Heart disease, strokes, and kidney disease are strongly associated with high blood pressure.
Blood exerts too much force against artery walls when too few end muscle fibers contract to relax the arteries between heartbeats, causing the blood pressure to rise. When this happens, more of the workload falls on each muscle in turn until they burn out or rupture from repeated stress.
This process can result in severe complications that pose significant health risks over time. High blood pressure also increases your chances of developing other serious medical issues, including diabetes mellitus type II, coronary vascular disease (CAD), chronic renal failure (CRF), Alzheimer's Disease (AD), dementia, and cognitive impairment due to multiple small strokes caused by hypertension-induced vascular damage.
High blood pressure may also be a risk factor for dementia, but the relationship between hypertension and cognitive impairment is unclear.
Studies have found that high-normal or prehypertension levels are associated with an increased risk of subsequent AD onset in both men and women (Hansson et al., 2003).
Men with untreated mild to moderate cardiovascular disease had a threefold higher incidence of dementia than those without these conditions. A study published in the same journal showed that diabetic men with type II diabetes were more likely than their counterparts without this condition to develop dementia (Rovio 2005).
Advanced age was reported as the most significant predictor for all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease among older adults.
What is Dementia?
Damage to the brain causes the symptoms of dementia. Symptoms may include problems with abstract thinking, memory loss, and difficulty carrying out daily tasks.
Some people experience personality changes or hallucinations. Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent form of dementia, which includes these types of symptoms and includes difficulties in speaking, understanding language, recognizing family members, and making decisions about day-to-day activities (WHO).
Dementia can occur as part of the aging process, so it is difficult to predict who will develop it. This condition is associated with several risk factors, including growing older, having high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes mellitus type II - severe form; depression and other mental health disorders such as Parkinson's Disease, and physical conditions such as sleep apnea, stroke, and traumatic brain injury.
Women More Affected With High Blood Pressure in Midlife
Women are more often affected by high blood pressure during midlife than men, soo they face an increased risk of dementia later on. This could be due to estrogen's protective effect against heart attacks, strokes, and other vascular problems.
Studies show a higher risk of dementia in women who have high blood pressure in their 40's.
Vascular Dementia in Women
Vascular dementia in women is a type of dementia caused by poor blood flow to the brain. Studies show that vascular dementia is twice as common in women as men, and it can be linked with high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure in Men in Midlife
High blood pressure is more often detected in men who have a family history of high blood pressure or other heart problems. The use of tobacco can also lead to damage to the vascular system and increase hypertension.
Studies show a lower risk for dementia among men with high-normal systolic pressures than women when comparing both sexes across all ages.
Reducing Blood Pressure to Reduce Cognitive Risk of Dementia
The risk of dementia increases if the blood pressure is not appropriately managed. Some medications may reduce this risk, like beta-blockers that slow down how fast the heartbeats and often help lower high blood pressure levels and lower pulse rates, reduce anxiety or emotional stress, and control angina symptoms.
A healthy diet, adequate exercise, and not smoking may help decrease this heightened risk among both genders. Still, it should be monitored closely by a healthcare professional if taken on an individual basis.
Stroke prevention is also helpful in lowering the risk of dementia with a strong correlation to certain strokes and reduced cognitive ability. Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels can play an essential role in reducing this heightened risk for both men and women as midlife approaches.
Exercise also reduces blood pressure for those who want to try a non-pharmacological approach with lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet low in salt content and weight loss when appropriate.
It is essential to have a dialogue about the risks involved between patients and their doctors so they can make decisions together on what treatments work best based on individualized factors, including life expectancy, health status, preferences/concerns regarding side effects, and preferences/concerns regarding effectiveness.
There is a strong correlation between certain strokes and reduced cognitive ability for those who experience higher than normal systolic or diastolic hypertension levels from middle age onwards.
Both men and women can decrease their chances of getting dementia by reducing stress and limiting alcohol intake in excess.
Do not drink alcohol in excess or smoke cigarettes to reduce the risk for dementia due to stroke from high blood pressure.
It is essential to maintain a healthy diet and weight loss when appropriate in order to decrease risks of strokes that can lead to cognitive impairment later on in life, especially for those with hypertension levels higher than normal middle age onwards. Both men and women should be aware of these factors so they are able to make informed decisions about their health together with their doctor based on individualized considerations such as different stressors, preferences/concerns regarding side effects, lifestyle habits, and medical history. It's also important that both genders know how diets low in salt content like the DASH Diet Plan work best for individuals with high blood pressure.
Lithell H., Hansson L., Skoog I., Elmfeldt D., Hofman A., Olofsson B.et al. (2003) The Study on Cognition and Prognosis in the Elderly (SCOPE): principal results of a randomized, double-blind intervention trial. J Hypertens 21: 875–886
Rovio, S. (2005, December). Leisure-time physical activity at midlife and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease: Request PDF. Leisure-time physical activity at midlife and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7527679_Leisure-time_physical_activity_at_midlife_and_the_risk_of_dementia_and_Alzheimer's_disease.