Is High Blood Pressure Causing Your Parents’Is High Blood Pressure Causing Your Parents Memory Problems? Memory Problems?

It’s normal to worry about dementia if your parents are having memory lapses, but there are other health issues that can affect memory and judgment, and high blood pressure is one of them. Some researchers think chronic high blood pressure affects blood flow to the brain and impairs thinking skills. There’s also evidence that high blood pressure in middle age can raise the risk of dementia later. And research has found that seniors with hypertension or widely varying blood pressure have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. Here’s what you need to know about high blood pressure, memory problems, and reducing your parents’ (and your) health risks.

Risk factors for high blood pressure

About 1/3 of Americans have high blood pressure. It often has no symptoms and it can strike anyone at any age, but age and race affect risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, men’s risk of high blood pressure starts to rise around age 45; for women the risk rises around age 65. The Centers for Disease Control has found that African Americans are at higher hypertension risk in general than whites and Latinos.

Other major risk factors for high blood pressure are:

  • Physical inactivity.
  • Extra weight.
  • High stress levels.
  • Excessive drinking.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Nutritional imbalances like too much salt and/or too little potassium and Vitamin D.

Managing high blood pressure

If your parents have never been diagnosed with high blood pressure but are having new memory problems, a doctor’s visit is in order. If your parents already have high blood pressure, it’s very important that they follow their doctor’s recommendations for diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Typical suggestions include exercising regularly, eating healthier foods, limiting alcohol, stopping smoking, and losing weight.

Your parents should stick to their prescribed blood pressure medication schedule, too. A Johns Hopkins University data analysis found that people on blood pressure meds developed Alzheimer’s at just half the rate of people who weren’t on medication for hypertension.

Other health issues like diabetes and kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure. So if your parents have these conditions, they need to manage their overall health carefully, follow their doctor’s treatment plan, and take their medications as prescribed.

Memory warning signs

Memory lapses aren’t always signs of a serious problem, but the Alzheimer’s Association says it’s time to see the doctor if your parents show any of these 10 dementia warning signs:

  1. Forgetting important dates, relying on written notes, or repeatedly asking the same questions in a way that disrupts daily life.
  2. Losing the ability to solve problems like paying bills.
  3. Forgetting how to do familiar tasks like playing games.
  4. Forgetting the date, year, or place where they are.
  5. Having new reading or vision problems.
  6. Having new writing or speaking problems.
  7. Losing things and not being able to find them, or suspecting others of taking them.
  8. Showing poor judgment, especially with money.
  9. Increasing social isolation.
  10. Showing mood and behavior changes.

Seeing a doctor early is important. Medications can help slow the progress of some forms of dementia—as long as they’re given early. And if the root cause of the memory problems is high blood pressure, diagnosis and treatment can help lower dementia risk and prevent other health problems later on.

Learn more about dementia care and assisted living at SeniorAdvisor.com. If you’re looking for more information about memory care communities near you, our Senior Living Advisors are ready to answer your questions at 1-800-805-3621.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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