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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Exp 50 years

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Article Home Diet and Fitness Does Keeping Blood Pressure in Check Protect Memory in the Elderly?!

Does Keeping Blood Pressure in Check Protect Memory in the Elderly?!


Does Keeping Blood Pressure in Check Protect Memory in the Elderly?!

Know What Science Says…


Memory is an important function of the human mind which is essential for optimally performing daily activities of living. Any disturbance in memory function can affect the life of a person in many ways. Such memory impairment is commonly seen in the elderly as a part of our regular ageing process. Most of the people after the age of 65 end up with frailties as a result of the global deterioration of one or multiple physiological and metabolic functions. This makes the elderly unable to cope with the physical or mental stress caused by infections or any sort of physical insults to the body. One common feature of such frailty is memory impairment. When it is coupled with cognition defects, the life of an elderly person and their caregivers becomes difficult. Visual and physical defects resulting from old age can be managed to some extent by instruments and corrective procedures, whereas memory and cognition defects need special attention.

Causes of Memory Disturbances

Memory disturbances in the elderly may not only be due to the natural ageing process alone, there are many other pathological causes for the same such as:

1.     Vitamin B12 deficiency

2.     Depression

3.     Sleep disturbances

4.     Thyroid hormone disturbance

5.     Alcohol abuse

6.     Uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes

7.     Side effects of medication like sedatives, antihistamines, muscle relaxants etc.

Certain parts of the brain undergo natural or pathological atrophy during old age that leads to suboptimal functioning in abilities like memory and cognition. The hippocampus region of the brain is mainly involved in episodic memory which plays a vital role in maintaining better cognitive health. Gradual reduction in the grey matter of the brain, which are involved in memory, results in irreversible memory problems. Hormones and mediators which are involved in cell turnover become deficient or ineffective over time and the atrophy becomes progressive.

Hypertension Being a Cause

Uncontrolled hypertension is considered as one of the causes of the gradual development of memory problems. This is attributed to the reduced flow of blood to the brain structures which is resultant of the effects of increased pressure in smaller blood vessels in the brain. There are micro-strokes that occur which are clinically insignificant as they do not present with any obvious physical defect. The other effects include minor damages to the blood vessels, the spots at which plaque formation can occur, occluding the blood vessels and hampering blood supply to the brain.

Research Relating Hypertension to Memory and Brain Function

A randomized clinical trial at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina showed that the occurrence of milder cognitive impairment can be achieved by lowering one’s blood pressure. Another study, involving 450 participants with follow-up brain scans, found that more aggressive blood pressure control not only reduces the chances of memory problems, but it also reduces the number of lesions occurring due to micro-strokes.

How Can Hypertension Be Managed to Maintain Long Term Memory and Cognition?

The question to ask a doctor is, ‘What level of blood pressure is considered safe so as to achieve primary prevention of memory problems but not causing the undesirable effects of hypotension?’ In 2010, the National Institute of Health conducted a major trial testing where the medication prescribed aiming to maintain blood pressure at 140/90 showed better follow up results on memory and cognition.

Although memory problems in the elderly can be natural, efforts in controlling one’s blood pressure and prevention of reversible causes of memory problems can help towards a better quality of life in the elderly.


Written by Dr. Raju A. T.