Many studies have shown that the higher a person?s blood pressure, the more likely it is that damage to the brain will occur. High blood pressure remains the number-one cause of strokes, which lead to a sudden loss of brain tissue from an acute stoppage of blood and nutrients to a part of the brain.
Strokes can cause an acute decrease in intellectual function or personality. They can also cause a paralysis of various parts of the body depending on the specific area of the brain damaged.
New research presented at the American Heart Association?s 57th annual hypertension meeting in Washington, D.C., this past September found that higher blood pressure also causes a more rapid decline in mental function in older people even if they never suffer a stroke.
According to Dr. Richard Jennings at the University of Pittsburgh who conducted the research, high blood pressure can in effect speed up the aging of the brain and might add another 10 years to one?s functional brain age.
For many years researchers have noted that people with high blood pressure were more likely to develop problems with memory and had a decreased ability to focus their attention. To discover why hypertension caused these problems, Dr. Jennings examined 59 people with normal blood pressure and 39 others with hypertension. He examined blood flow to various parts of the brain while people took a memory test. Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans of their brains, he showed that those with higher blood pressure had a significant reduction in blood flow to some of the parts of the brain involved in memory. The decreased ability to increase blood flow during a mental task apparently impaired the ability of brain cells to function.
Research has proven that about 90 percent of all Americans will develop hypertension at some point in their lives. This appears to result largely from excessive salt intake. FMI see www.foodandhealth.com, click on CPE courses and refer to the article on Salt Toxicity.
By James Kenney,?PhD, RD, LD, FACN.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.