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10/11/2016 11:19 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2016

The Health Condition In Midlife That Can Raise Your Dementia Risk

Dementia impacts about 30 to 40 million people worldwide.

High blood pressure, especially in middle age, is linked to an increased risk of dementia later in life, the American Heart Association cautioned in a new scientific statement Monday.

The association issued the warning, published in the journal Hypertension on Oct. 10, after reviewing multiple studies on high blood pressure and its relationship to brain diseases.

“People with high blood pressure tend to have more dementia,” statement author Dr. Costantino Iadecola, professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, told United Press International.

But what’s not yet clear, Iadecola added, is whether controlling high blood pressure decreases one’s likelihood of getting dementia.

“We know treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of heart diseases such as heart attacks, congestive heart failure and stroke, and it is important to continue treating it to reduce the risks of these diseases. However, we need randomized controlled studies ― which do prove cause and effect ― to determine if treating high blood pressure, especially in middle age, will also decrease the risk of cognitive impairment later in life,” Iadecola said.

As one of the most common neurological disorders, dementia impacts an estimated 30 to 40 million people worldwide. That number is predicted to triple by 2050 due in large part to the aging of the population. In the United States alone, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Meanwhile, about 70 million American adults suffer from high blood pressure.

In addition to high blood pressure, previous studies also have linked middle-aged drinking to a higher risk of dementia.

The good news is that research has shown that regular exercise can cut a middle-aged man’s risk of dementia and other cognitive decline by as much as 60 percent. A healthy diet packed with fruits, vegetables and fish also has been linked with a lower risk of dementia for both men and women. 

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