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Keep an Eye on Blood Pressure to Prevent Dementia

Keeping your blood pressure in check may be the single best way to prevent dementia for mature women according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Their findings were published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

The researchers recruited 1,424 women aged 65 and older from the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. Their blood pressure was taken annually as well as MRI scans of their brain.

The researchers used the MRI scans to look for white matter lesions, a type of scarring that is directly linked to later development of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Women that were hypertensive at the start of the study (140/90 or higher), had significantly more white matter at the end of the 8 year study compared to women with normal blood pressure.

The researchers say that their findings should encourage women in middle age to keep an eye on their blood pressure in order to avoid serious health problems later in life.

Similar findings resulted from a study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. The study results were published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Stroke.

For this study, the researchers tracked 983 people for more than 15 years, beginning when all the participants were middle aged. They found that the longer a person had uncontrolled high blood pressure, the more white matter damage they accumulated.

Some effective ways to reduce blood pressure include:

1. Losing those extra pounds: Losing some extra pounds, especially around the waist, is one of the most effective ways to reduce blood pressure. Men generally should have no larger than 40 inches around their waist and women should keep it below 35.

2. Exercising Regularly: If you are currently inactive, you may see a significant drop in blood pressure in just a few weeks

3. Eating Healthy: A healthy, balanced diet is essential. Also try to reduce sodium and increase potassium in your diet

4. Reducing Stress: This is often times easier said than done, but if you sit down to take some time and think about what stresses you, eliminating those stresses can become easier. Create a support network of friends and family to help you along the way.

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