High blood pressure more than doubles an older person’s risk of developing epilepsy, a study has found.
Epilepsy affects about 250,000 Australians and typically results in seizures typified by uncontrollable shaking, temporary memory loss and loss of consciousness.
In Australia, epilepsy is most frequently diagnosed in people aged 65 and over and is the fourth-most common neurological condition diagnosed in older Australians.
It can be hard to identify what causes seizures later in life. But now a new study completed by researchers from Boston University reveals older people with high blood pressure are 2.5 times more likely to develop epilepsy.
The researchers say the results further bolster a link between epilepsy and the cardiovascular system.
The researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing study of heart health that began in 1948.
The researchers looked at data from 2986 people over the age of 45 who were originally examined as part of the Framingham study between 1991 and 1995. They then conducted follow-up examinations looking at the role of modifiable risk factors in predicting epilepsy.
Apart from high blood pressure, risk factors included diabetes mellitus, smoking and hyperlipidemia (where your blood contains too much fat).
Follow-up examinations occurred over an average of 19 years. During that time, 55 new cases of epilepsy were diagnosed. The researchers found high blood pressure level was associated with a 2.44-times greater risk of developing epilepsy.
The research team showed that epilepsy risk could be reduced by lowering blood pressure levels through improvements to diet and exercise.
Foods that can help lower blood pressure include those high in antioxidants called anthocyanins such as berries, beetroot, eggplant and red cabbage. These compounds are responsible for the red and purple colours of these fruits and vegetables.
Bananas are also good for lowering blood pressure as they are high in potassium. Potassium works by lowering the tension in the walls of blood vessels, which in turn will reduce the pressurisation of the blood inside.
Apart from dietary changes, exercise is crucial to help keep blood pressure in check. Experts recommend people aged 65 and older should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical exercise most days, but say any activity is better than none.
Have you had your blood pressure checked recently? Do you know what it was last time it was measured? Were you aware of the link between blood pressure and epilepsy? Let us know in the comments section below.
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