Sudden Drop in BP when Standing Up Linked to Higher Dementia Risk

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blood pressure gauge

Dutch researchers found there is a link between sudden drops in blood pressure when a person stands up and that person’s dementia risk. The condition, also known as orthostatic hypotension, is tied to a 15 percent increased risk of developing dementia in the long run.

The analysis, which involved 6,000 Dutch adults, revelead an association between the two conditions not a cause and effect link. But a U.S. scientist described the association as “worth investigating.”

A team of researchers at Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands sifted through 24 years’ worth of data on thousands of people for the study. They found patients living with orthostatic hypotension were 15 percent more likely to develop dementia and its milder form, the Alzheimer’s disease.

Orthostatic hypotension’s symptoms include sudden drops in blood flow when the patient abruptly stands up, head rushes and dizziness. Also, the condition temporarily reduces blood flow to the brain.

While this cannot have a big impact on young adults’ health, it can lead to brain dysfunction in the elderly. Researchers explained that the sudden drops in blood pressure deprive brain tissue of oxygen. In years, this can lead to irreversible damage to the tissue.

Study’s Limitations

Dr Irving Gomolin, a geriatric medicine expert at Winthrop-University Hospital in NY, explained the findings are in line with previous studies. Past research had also found an association between defective cerebral blood flow and higher risk of thinking disorders. Dr. Gomolin was not involved in the research.

But Dr. Gomolin pointed out that most study participants who developed dementia did not have the condition. In the researcher’s opinion, the findings are “too preliminary” for anybody to draw a final conclusion. Doctors should not focus on treating orthostasis just because it might lower dementia risk, he said.

Dr Gisele Wolf-Klein from Northwell Health in New York agrees. She mentioned studies that found a link between mid-life high blood pressure and lower memory scores. In those patients, too low levels of diastolic blood pressure apparently affected cognitive functions.

However, other studies found low blood pressure in mid-life can also lead to brain health issues. Wolf-Klein believes the solution may be a “right balance” between diastolic blood pressure and systolic pressure.

Nevertheless, she recommends patients to report to their GPs any sudden drops in blood pressure, dizziness, and falls. And doctors should talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of blood pressure treatments.

The latest findings appeared in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Dementia in the U.S.

In America, Alzheimer’s disease has reached an epidemic status. About 5 million adults now live with the condition. Also, the neurodegenerative disease is the 6th top killer in the country.

One in three seniors die with the condition or another form of dementia. Dementia’s death toll is higher than breast and prostate cancers’ combined. This year, health care costs for dementia patients topped $236 billion. By the half of the century, the costs could jump to $1 trillion, a report from the Alzheimer’s Assn. shows.

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