Women at menopause often find they are also experiencing high blood pressure due to increased stress, weight gain and hormone imbalance.
High blood pressure can be managed fairly easily, but women who develop high blood pressure in their 40s are at significantly greater risk of dementia than men with the condition, a large study has found.
High blood pressure affects more than a quarter of British adults and there are thought to be seven undetected cases for every ten diagnosed. The rate rises from 3 per cent of under-24s to 58 per cent of men and women between the ages of 65 and 74.
Why are women more at risk than men?
Scientists have long struggled to understand why the disorder affects 50 per cent more women than men as nearly two thirds of the 850,000 dementia patients in the UK are women.
Analysis of medical records spanning half a century suggests that the disparity could largely be down to cardiovascular problems taking a heavier toll on women.
Paola Gilsanz, a postdoctoral fellow at Kaiser Permanente and the University of California was the paper’s lead author of a research study in California.
The study found that women who had hypertension diagnosed around 40 years of age were 73 per cent more likely to develop dementia by the time they reached old age than those with healthy blood pressure. There was no such link for men.
The scientists suggest that hypertension may be particularly harmful for women’s brains because it has a worse effect on the rest of their bodies. A 2014 study showed that high blood pressure was more likely to lead to heart disease in women than men.
Others linked it to thicker left ventricles and protein loss — a potential harbinger of cardiovascular problems — in female patients.
Dr Gilsanz said this was the first time that a team had looked at the link between the two conditions across such a big part of lifespan.
What can reduce the risk?
Certainly at menopause women are at high risk for heart disease, but it is now clear that to reduce that risk there are certain things that really will make a difference.
Blood pressure can be lowered by making small, healthy, changes such as:
- Cut down on salt. It compromises your kidneys’ ability to remove excess water from the bloodstream.
- Take regular exercise, and walk more instead of sitting to long. The stronger your heart is, the less hard it has to work when it pumps blood and the lower the strain on your arteries.
- Drink less because repeated bouts of drinking appear to raise blood pressure over the long run via the nervous system.
- Lose weight if needed as the more extra weight you carry the the harder your heart has to work and you can raise your blood pressure
- Hormone balance is needed to deal with oestrogen dominance related weight gain so supplement with bioidentical progesterone.
It is known to help by acting as a diuretic to help with weight loss and so lower blood pressure.
Anything that can help reduce any risk for dementia is certainly worth making as much personal effort as you can.
One reason to be hopeful is that sustained anti-smoking campaigns and greater health awareness has cut individual risk of dementia over the past few decades, according to John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London.
“This is a very interesting study that ties mid-life high blood pressure with dementia risk,” he said. “This work is consistent with the observations of a 20 per cent decline in the incidence of dementia over the past two decades.