The French have a saying, “La plus ca change, la plus c’est la meme chose.” Roughly translated, it means, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the medical profession, I find that principle often rings true. And not much surprises me. Perhaps because the government-industrial-medical complex seems to endlessly dither over the same, old, failed research…and the same, old, failed drug approaches.
Although–I recently came across a new study that did surprise me. In fact, it goes against everything you’ve ever read in my Daily Dispatches.
I’ve written many times that getting your blood pressure under control is the No. 1 thing you can do to protect yourself against cardiovascular disease. But according to a group of Dutch researchers, men and women who first develop high blood pressure in their 80s and 90s may actually experience a very significant benefit–decreased dementia rates.
Of course, my professors in medical school taught us it was “normal” for blood pressure to increase with age. They used a simple formula to determine your systolic (upper number) reading. Just take your age and add 100. So a “normal” systolic blood pressure reading for a 50-year-old would be 150.
But experts developed this concept back then by observing a generation of “Mad Men,” who were totally stressed out all the time and did not know it. Or wouldn’t admit it. Almost every male adult in the 20th century experienced increased blood pressure. So they thought it was normal.
Today, doctors realize any blood pressure reading above 120/80 poses an increased risk of heart disease. And anyone with blood pressure above 140/90 should seek treatment. (Ideally with effective, time-tested blood pressure drugs.)
Now let’s see what’s so different about the Danish study…
Researchers followed a cohort of 625 men and women for up to 10 years. They evaluated the participants for signs of dementia about every six months.
They found participants who developed high blood pressure for the first time between the ages 80 and 89 years had a much lower risk of developing dementia than those with normal blood pressure. And those who first developed high blood pressure in their 90s had an even lower risk–benefitting from a whopping 55 percent reduction in dementia risk. Furthermore, those who developed the very highest blood pressure levels had the very lowest dementia risk. And even those who developed pre-hypertension had a lower risk for dementia than those with normal blood pressure.
The researchers speculated that once you reach a certain age, high blood pressure helps maintain good circulation. Which would help deliver oxygen and energy for brain metabolism.
Of course, these researchers need to consider that those who were most susceptible to arterial disease never made it to age 90. And they simply weren’t included in the study because they would have already died from cardiovascular diseases.
The researchers also need to consider this older group probably made it through most of their lives without all the newer drugs–like statins–that are supposed to protect you from early mortality…but don’t!
We also have to consider the many studies that link higher blood pressure in midlife with a higher dementia risk later in life.
It’s important to remember the Danish study only found benefits for those who first developed high blood pressure in their 80s or 90s. By that point, the typical risk factors may be out the window anyway. (Indeed, doctors have finally figured out they should stop giving statin drugs to patients in their last years of life.)
Another big question is why, after a lifetime of normal blood pressure, does anyone suddenly develop high blood pressure in his or her 80s or 90s? Maybe the body just knows what it needs. And at that age, the brain “orders up” more blood flow.
As I mentioned earlier, this finding does go against everything I’ve ever written about high blood pressure. But unless you’re over 80, it doesn’t change my recommendations for you. For more details on those recommendations, you can refer to my special report The Insider’s Secret to Conquering High Blood Pressure and Protecting Your Heart. Subscribers to my Insiders’ Cures newsletter can access this report for free by logging in to my website. And if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to consider becoming one.
- Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014. Abstract P2-083. Presented July 14, 2014.