This common health problem can put you at greater risk for Alzheimer’s

Blood pressure issues are already worrisome enough and now a new study finds that men whose blood pressure spikes at night, could be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, conducted by researchers at Uppsala University posits that older men who experience blood pressure spikes at night are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.

For healthy adults, their blood pressure rises in the daytime then decreases in the evening. Reverse dipping, which denotes the inverse of this process, can sometimes be an early indicator of cognitive decline.

“A lower day-to-night systolic blood pressure (BP) dip has previously been associated with poor brain health and cognitive functions. Here, we sought to examine whether reduced dipping of systolic BP is associated with the prospective risk of being diagnosed with any dementia in Swedish older men,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

The research was derived from 1,000 Swedish men in their early 70’s who were followed for 24 years. At the end of the study period, 286 men developed dementia.

Reverse systolic BP dipping was consistently linked with a higher risk of a participant being diagnosed with any dementia except vascular dementia (reduced reasoning, planning, judgment, memory faculties caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to the brain.)

Alzheimer’s disease was the most prominent adverse outcome indexed by the study’s authors.

“The risk of getting a dementia diagnosis was 1.64 times higher among men with reverse dipping compared to those with normal dipping. Reverse dipping mainly increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia,” said study co-author Xiao Tan, a postdoctoral fellow in the university’s neuroscience department, in a recent media release.

The results were consistent enough to warrant high-blood pressure therapeutics, like antihypertensive medications, as a potential deterrent against dementia-related illness.

Why the night time is essential for brain health

“The night is a critical period for brain health. For example, in animals, it has previously been shown that the brain clears out waste products during sleep, and that this clearance is compromised by abnormal blood pressure patterns,” study co-author and associate professor of neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden, Christian Benedict explained in a media release.

“Since the night also represents a critical time window for human brain health, we examined whether too high blood pressure at night, as seen in reverse dipping, is associated with higher dementia risk in older men.

Future studies should decipher whether therapies lowering nocturnal systolic BP below daytime levels, such as bedtime dosing of antihypertensive medication, can meaningfully curb the development of dementia.”

Lifestyle changes may help reduce your risk

Long-term literature correlating high blood pressure in mid-life and dementia is fairly well-established. In fact, many health systems recognize the former as a key predictor of the latter.

“A key takeaway message from these longitudinal research studies is that a life-long approach to health is important. Keeping blood pressure levels normal is only one factor, along with exercise, diet, smoking, and alcohol consumption that is important to consider when attempting to minimize your risk of developing dementia. High blood pressure does not give you any symptoms initially so it is important to be proactive and find out what your blood pressure is,” the Alzheimer’s Society concludes.