heartRoutine medical checkups include a blood pressure reading. While it’s often measured to determine a patient’s risk for heart complications, blood pressure may also be an indicator of cognitive decline.

New research conducted at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reveals your diastolic blood pressure number could be linked to dementia.

What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?

A blood pressure reading has two numbers: Systolic and diastolic. The top number, systolic, measures the force of blood flowing through your arteries and the rest of your body. Normal systolic pressure is below 120; a reading above 130 indicates hypertension.

Diastolic measures the pressure within your arteries when the heart rests between beats. A normal diastolic reading is below 80; anything above indicates high blood pressure.

While systolic pressure is considered the best indicator of a person’s heart disease risk, diastolic pressure can shed more light on white matter lesions, also known as brain scars. A person with brain scars is at increased risk for dementia, stroke and other heart ailments.

New Research Study

Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that patients with high systolic blood pressure have a greater risk of narrowed arteries that can cause brain scars. The study also found those with a diastolic pressure lower than 80 showed smaller brain scars than patients with a reading over 90.

Lead researcher, Michelle R. Caunca, said, “Different regions are supplied by different vessels and certain diseases can affect particular regions in different ways.”

By exploring different regions of the brain and how blood pressure affects the brain’s blood vessels, researchers can focus on the difference between how much pressure is exerted against artery walls when the heart is beating and at rest.

According to the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (AHA), 20 percent of people over 60 will show signs of brain scars. Over the age of 90, most people will display white matter lesions.

The study’s findings reinforce the importance of monitoring both numbers in a blood pressure reading. The American Heart Association recommends everyone over the age of 18 have their blood pressure checked regularly. Once over age 60, ask your doctor about diastolic pressure.
Healthy eating and regular exercise can help people of all ages maintain a normal blood pressure reading. To learn more about senior health and admission to Avon Health Center, contact us today!