How much does a healthy body contribute to a healthy mind?
Scientists are continually finding that the link is very strong, and research from the Australian National University (ANU) has found a way to slow brain ageing through keeping blood pressure in the optimal range.
That optimal blood pressure range, however, is under the normal recommended range, with researchers calling for a change to national health guidelines to reflect these results.
The ANU study found that people with elevated blood pressure that was still in the recommended range were at risk of accelerated brain ageing.
Participants with high blood pressure had older and therefore less healthy brains, increasing their risk of heart disease, stroke and dementia, explained Professor Nicolas Cherbuin.
“This thinking that one’s brain becomes unhealthy because of high blood pressure later in life is not completely true,” Prof. Cherbuin said. “It starts earlier, and it starts in people who have normal blood pressure.”
Normal blood pressure is defined by pressure below 120/80, whereas an optimal and healthier blood pressure is closer to 110/70.
The ANU research comes after a large international study found the number of people over 30 with high blood pressure has doubled globally.
Cardiologist and co-author of the ANU study, Professor Walter Abhayaratna, said if we maintain optimal blood pressure our brains will remain younger and healthier as we age.
“It’s important we introduce lifestyle and diet changes early on in life to prevent our blood pressure from rising too much, rather than waiting for it to become a problem,” he said.
“Compared to a person with a high blood pressure of 135/85, someone with an optimal reading of 110/70 was found to have a brain age that appears more than six months younger by the time they reach middle age.”
As part of the study, the researchers examined more than 2000 brain scans of 686 healthy individuals aged 44 to 76 and the blood pressure of the participants was measured up to four times across a 12-year period. The data was used to determine a person’s brain age, which is a measure of brain health.
Prof. Abhayaratna said the findings highlighted the need for people to check their blood pressure regularly.
“Australian adults should take the opportunity to check their blood pressure at least once a year when they see their GP, with an aim to ensure that their target blood pressure is closer to 110/70,” he said.
“If your blood pressure levels are elevated, you should take the opportunity to speak with your GP about ways to reduce your blood pressure, including the modification of lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity.”
Pharmacist Dr Eric Chan recently wrote for YourLifeChoices that it was normal for your blood pressure to change as you aged and provided some simple tips to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.
- regular, moderate exercise
- quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake
- eating a Mediterranean-style diet, rich with antioxidants, good fats and low healthy carbohydrates
- maintaining a healthy body weight and waist circumference.
Do you have an annual blood pressure check? Have you modified your diet to maintain a healthy blood pressure? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
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