Life Wellbeing Heart attack, stroke, or losing your mind? What hurts the heart, hurts the brain

Heart attack, stroke, or losing your mind? What hurts the heart, hurts the brain

High blood pressure and obesity kills off your brain, as well as your heart. Photo: Getty
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Lowering blood pressure by taking blood pressure medications reduces the risk of developing dementia and cognitive impairment by 7 per cent.

The findings are supported by previous linkings of poor heart and vascular health with cognitive decline.

Researchers from the National University of Ireland, Galway conducted a systematic review of 14 randomised controlled trials, involving 96,158 participants.

They make a convincing argument that high blood pressure, long accepted as a cause of heart attack or stroke, increases your risk of losing your mind.

The researchers say more people should be screened for the sake of their brain health.

Dr Michelle Canavan, consultant geriatrician at Galway University Hospital, and senior author of the paper, said in a prepared statement: “Prevention of dementia is a major health priority”.

“We know from previous research that a major concern of older people is developing dementia,” Dr Canavan said.

“The message from this study is simple: Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, it can be readily treated with lifestyle changes and medications.

“We would hope that our study will heighten awareness of the importance of controlling blood pressure to maintain brain health, combined with a healthy lifestyle.”

The researchers say blood pressure lowering with antihypertensive medications reduced the risk of developing dementia or cognitive impairment by 7 per cent, and cognitive decline also by 7 per cent, over a four-year period.

One thing that’s becoming clear: Whatever hurts the heart, seems to hurt the brain as well.

The New Daily reported in October that a Japanese study had found people with higher levels of trans fatty acids in their bloodstream have a 53 per cent higher risk of dementia from any cause – and about 43 per cent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Donuts – delightful to the eye and tastebuds, but not great for trans fat levels. Photo: Getty

We’ve known for 30 years that trans fatty acids – chemically altered unsaturated fats found in cookies, donuts, pies, deep-fried takeaway and pastries – are bad for the heart.

When the heart is in trouble, the amount of blood (and therefore oxygen) getting to the brain reduces, and the brain cells fade without feeding.

Our report cited a 2013 study from Rush University Medical Centre that found people with high amounts of abdominal fat in their middle age are 3.6 times as likely to develop memory loss and dementia later in life.

We also reported in October that the number of children worldwide living in heart attack territory has gradually risen over the past two decades, hand in hand with the obesity epidemic.

University of Oxford researchers found the prevalence of hypertension – high blood pressure readings that indicate an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and kidney failure – has significantly lifted in children as young as six.

In June, we reported on new research that finds one in three adult Australians have high blood pressure – more than six million people.

In 2009 it was one in five, or about four million people. That was 20 per cent of the population 10 years ago, and nearly 33 per cent today.

And half of those people don’t know they’ve got it – along with the attendant risks not only to their heart and arteries, but also to their brains, kidneys and eyes.