High blood pressure is a common condition in the UK, with more than one in four people living with it. High blood pressure happens when the pressure inside a person’s arteries is higher than it should be. Overtime, this can pose serious life-threatening health risks. Evidence also reveals that it can raise the risk of developing vascular dementia.
In a study conducted by The George Institute for Global Health, the medical records of more than four million people were analysed with researchers finding heightened blood pressure was associated with a 62 per cent higher risk of vascular dementia between the ages of 30-50.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Professor Kazem Rahimi, of The George Institute for Global Health, said: “Vascular dementia rates are increasing all over the world and will pose a significant economic and social burden in both developed and developing countries. So these results are particularly important.
“We already know that high blood pressure can raise the risk of stroke and heart attack. Our research has shown that high blood pressure is also associated with a significantly higher risk of vascular dementia.”
Significantly, the study found that over a seven year period 11,114 people went onto develop vascular dementia.
The study also found that high blood pressure was still a risk factor even after adjusting for the presence of stroke, the leading cause of vascular dementia.
Professor Rahimi, deputy director of The George Institute UK, said: “Our results suggest that lowering blood pressure, either by exercise, diet or blood pressure lowering drugs, could reduce the risk of vascular dementia.”
Sustained high blood pressure can also raise the risk of a heart attack. As the American Heart Association explained: “The excess strain and resulting damage from high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) causes the coronary arteries serving the heart to slowly become narrowed from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque.
“As arteries harden with plaque, blood clots become more likely to form. When an artery becomes blocked due to an accumulation of plaque or a blood clot, the flow of blood through the heart muscle is interrupted, starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients. The damage or death of part of the heart muscle that occurs as a result is called a heart attack (myocardial infarction).”
Fortunately, people can stave off the risk of developing high blood pressure by committing to certain lifestyle decisions.
As the NHS explained, reducing salt intake can help to prevent it: “Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.”
Cutting down on salt can be challenging however.
As Blood Pressure UK noted, most of the salt people consume every day is ‘hidden’ which means it’s already in processed foods like bread, biscuits and breakfast cereals, and prepared ready meals or takeaways.
“This ‘hidden’ salt accounts for around 75 per cent of the salt we eat, only 25 per cent comes from the salt we add while cooking or at the table,” said the charity.
It recommends the following tips to reduce salt intake:
- Don’t add salt when cooking. This includes salty foods like soy sauce, stock cubes and gravy granules.
- Get extra flavour with herbs and spices, and from seasonings like chilli, ginger, lemon or lime juice.
- If a person really can’t do without a salty favour, they could try using a small amount of low-sodium salt substitute. If they have kidney problems or diabetes, they should check with their doctor or nurse first.
- Jarred cooking sauces and table sauces like ketchup, mustard and pickles can contain a lot of salt. Check the label and choose low-salt options.
- Bread and breakfast cereals can contain a lot of salt. Check the labels to compare brands.
- Smoked and processed meats and fish contain a lot of salt. A person should limit their intake of these.
- When eating out, ask if the meal can be made with less salt. This may not be possible, but it is always worth asking.
- Look out for low-salt recipes. There are a number of low-salt cookbooks available, or people can search on the Internet.
According to the NHS, regularly drinking alcohol can also raise the risk of developing high blood pressure. The health body recommends staying within the recommended levels to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.
The NHS says:
- Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- A person should spread their drinking over three days or more if they drink as much as 14 units a week