The researchers measured the blood pressure of 378 Framingham Heart Study participants who were between 50-60 years old. When the participants were approximately 80 years old, thirty years later, they were given tests to assess their cognitive performance.
The research group found that participants who had higher blood pressure in midlife scored lower on cognitive tests of attention and executive function later on. Executive functioning includes higher-order cognitive abilities such as reasoning, problem-solving, judgement and cognitive flexibility, or the ability to adapt to new situations.
"Midlife health matters. The pathway to one's older years is through the younger years and taking care of your health while you are younger may help you better preserve your cognitive health when you are older," said Rhoda Au, professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and corresponding author.
Many of us view aging as the biggest cause of cognitive decline and dementia. However, studies like this one are proving that there may be risk factors within our control. If you or a loved one has blood pressure outside of the normal range, contact a local physician to develop a plan to achieve normal blood pressure levels. Methods to reduce high blood pressure may include physical exercise or mindfulness practices to promote calm, such as meditation.
It is important to remember that you are neither too young nor too old to start developing healthy habits. Aside from staying physically active, socializing and stimulating the mind, the Cognitive Therapeutics MethodTM recommends a Mediterranean diet which is beneficial for both heart and brain health. A Mediterranean diet consists of vegetables, fruits, beans, unrefined grains and fish along with a moderate consumption of wine.
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