A large study published in 2010, involving more than 800,000 men, indicated that taking a type of blood-pressure lowering drug called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) could lower the risk of developing and help prevent dementia by up to 50% compared with other types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure.
More recently, in 2013, researchers at the University of Hawaii have added to this finding with the results of a study showing a similar protective effect in 774 Japanese-American men taking another type of blood-pressure drug, known as beta-blockers.
Having high blood pressure is a known risk factor for dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease – because it can cause damage to the small blood vessels within the brain, preventing delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the surrounding tissues.
While it is too early to recommend beta-blockers to help prevent dementia, these findings go some way towards providing better understanding of the links between high blood pressure and dementia, which in turn may facilitate the development of new treatments or preventative measures.
Another recent study has shown that exercise can help prevent age-related changes in the brain.
Since exercise is also known to improve cardiovascular health, including helping to lower blood pressure, the beneficial effects it has on brain health may happen via a similar mechanism.
If you have high blood pressure, it is important to talk to your doctor before embarking on a new exercise program, since some types of exercise will be more beneficial to you than others. In general, aerobic exercise (the type that makes you out of breath) such as walking, dancing or gardening are beneficial for people with high blood pressure.