Lower Your Blood Pressure to up Your Brain Power

Lower Your Blood Pressure to up Your Brain Power

“Only one thing concerns me,” says the doctor to Archie Bunker on an episode of All in the Family. “Your blood pressure is 170 over 98. That's just a little high. Now, let me ask you, Mr. Bunker, are you the kind of person who gets upset easily?” “No, no I don’t. Ask her,” Archie replies, pointing to his wife Edith. “Uh, only when he’s upset,” she says. “What kind of an answer is that?!” Archie yells at Edith. “You just answered my question, Mr. Bunker,” says the doctor.

Archie’s blood pressure was, in fact, not “just a little high.” It was sky-high, indicating that his heart was straining to get blood to his organs. Over time, this can lead to heart attack, stroke and even kidney failure. But there’s another risky side effect of hypertension that many folks aren’t aware of: cognitive decline.

A study in JAMA Neurology followed over 1,600 patients (ages 70-years-old and higher) for 10 years. Those with a systolic blood pressure (the top number) higher than 150mm/Hg had much more cognitive decline than those whose number was below 150. Folks cruising along under 120mm/Hg had the least cognitive decline.

So, aim to bring your systolic blood pressure down below 120mm/Hg. If it usually hovers just above that, in the 121-139 range, you can probably lower it using regular exercise and a healthy diet. If it’s 140 or higher, your doctor may recommend taking medication in addition to making lifestyle changes.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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