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Blood pressure, your heart, & your brain

By Michael Clark, Ph.D., Director, Education & Research, Diplomate of Anti-Aging Medicine,
Fellow and Advanced Fellow of Fellow of Anti-Aging, Regeneration & Functional Medicine

The Harvard Medical School on June 28, 2013, published an article entitled Blood pressure and your brain. The article noted the following:

“When you think of the effects of high blood pressure, you probably think of heart attack and stroke. And for good reason—many patients with high blood pressure develop coronary artery disease or heart failure, and many die as a result. But all parts of the body depend on the circulation, and many organs suffer from the impact of untreated high blood pressure. One of the organs at greatest risk is the brain.”

High blood pressure, memory loss

Our Natural Bio Health clinics, located in Austin, San Antonio, Odessa, and College Station, Texas treat many conditions including excess body fat, hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and others. A significant number of our patients come to us suffering from high blood pressure. Many if not most are on some type of blood pressure medicine.

Excess body fat, stress, unhealthy eating habits, uneven exercise, or lack of exercise, all can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension). It is generally understood that high blood pressure is bad for the heart. However, it is not generally understood or recognized that high blood pressure is bad for the brain. In fact, it can cause severe memory loss.

At Natural Bio Health, we know that inflammation, low thyroid, low estrogen, and low testosterone can cause or contribute to loss of memory. A variety of medications can contribute to memory loss. Research is making it “increasingly clear that high blood pressure takes a toll on the aging brain.”

Mild cognitive impairment, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease

Mild cognitive impairment can be a problem, but it’s usually quite manageable. Severe memory loss is a disaster; it causes severe disturbances of memory, reasoning, and judgment.

“The details vary from study to study, but the weight of evidence now suggests that high blood pressure increases the risk of mild cognitive impairment, a type of dementia called vascular dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Both high systolic (the top number of a blood pressure reading) pressure and high diastolic (the bottom number) pressure take a toll. In general, the higher the pressure and the longer it persists without treatment, the greater the risk.” Harvard Medical School.

Most investigations focus on older adults. For example, a study of 2,505 men between the ages of 71 and 93 found that men with systolic pressures of 140 mm Hg or higher were 77 percent more likely to develop dementia than men with systolic pressures below 120 mm Hg. And a study that evaluated blood pressure and cognitive function in people between 18 and 46 and between 47 and 83 found that in both age groups high systolic and diastolic pressures were linked to cognitive decline over time.

Prevention is the key, you cannot reverse dementia

According the Harvard Medical School article, “The damage and disability done by dementia cannot be reversed. That makes prevention doubly important.” The article goes on to say that treating high blood pressure can help prevent dementia and cites some of the evidence:

  • European scientists reported that long-term therapy for high blood pressure reduced the risk of dementia by 55 percent.
  • One American study linked therapy to a 38 percent lower risk.
  • Another reported that each year of therapy was associated with a 6 percent decline in the risk of dementia.
  • A study of American men and women linked therapy to a 36 percent reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In that study, a type of medication called diuretics appeared to be the most beneficial medication.
  • A team of investigators from Harvard and Boston University reported that six months of high blood pressure treatment actually improved blood flow to the brain.

Eighty percent less likely to progress to Alzheimer’s disease

The studies show that blood pressure control can reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction but does it help people who already have mild memory loss? Can treating [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][lowering] high blood pressure help stave off further damage?

The article quotes Italian scientists who studied 80 patients with mild cognitive dysfunction. The Italian scientists discovered that “Over a two-year period, people who were given medications to treat high blood pressure were 80 percent less likely to progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s than untreated patients.”

But wait! Can hypertension drugs increase memory loss?

The Harvard article and most of conventional medicine is of course focused on “treating” and “controlling” high blood pressure (hypertension) through the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Clients come to us on a variety of medication including beta blockers like Toprol, Inderal, Tenormin, and some other drugs whose chemical names end with “-olol.” Ironically, these drugs can have a side effect of increasing memory loss.

Dr. Armon B. Neel Jr., coauthor of Are Your Prescriptions Killing You, in his Ask the Pharmacist article published May 10, 2013, stated the following:

Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure and typically are prescribed for high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Beta-blockers are thought to cause memory problems by interfering with (“blocking”) the action of key chemical messengers in the brain, including norepinephrine and epinephrine.”

Diuretics are also popular for treating high blood pressure. Commonly known as “water pills,” they help your body get rid of unneeded water and salt through the urine. Getting rid of excess salt and fluid helps lower blood pressure and can make it easier for your heart to pump.

Top 10 classes of drugs that may cause memory loss

1. Antianxiety drugs
2. Cholesterol drugs
3. Antiseizure drugs
4. Antidepressant drugs
5. Narcotic painkillers
6. Parkinson’s drugs
7. Hypertension drugs
8. Sleeping aids
9. Incontinence drugs
10. Antihistamines

AARP, through Dr. Neel, has listed the above as the top 10 of classes of drugs that contribute to memory loss. We see examples of these every day in each of our Natural Bio Health clinics, whether in Austin, San Antonio, Odessa, or College Station. It is a universal problem as all drugs have side effects and commonly do not treat the underlying problem. The conventional approach to treatment is to prescribe a drug that lowers blood pressure. At the same time, other drugs are being prescribed, including some hypertension drugs that are harmful to our brains and our memory.

Memory loss with anti-depressants, sleeping aids and statins

Many memory (and energy) issues are caused by poor sleep quality. While sleeping aids can help some people get to sleep, the quality of that sleep is generally poor. Further, one of the many side effects is memory loss. Such drugs as Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien are often prescribed for insomnia. Drugs like Xanax, Librium, clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium) are antianxiety drugs that are often also prescribed for sleep. All have been shown to increase the risk of memory loss.

Antidepressant drugs (Tricyclic antidepressants). These include Amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Sinequan), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil) and trimipramine (Surmontil). “About 35 percent of adults taking TCAs report some degree of memory impairment and about 54 percent report having difficulty concentrating.” Dr. Neel explains that TCAs are thought to cause memory problems by blocking the action of serotonin and norepinephrine—two of the brain’s key chemical messengers.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs (Statins). Drugs like Atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor) are some of the statin drugs used to treat high cholesterol. Dr. Neel notes that they can cause memory loss in that they lower blood levels of cholesterol. By depleting brain levels of cholesterol as well, they may impair memory and other mental processes. In the brain, these lipids are vital to the formation of connections between nerve cells—the links underlying memory and learning. The brain, in fact, contains a quarter of the body’s cholesterol.

The clients of Natural Bio Health have successfully obtained healthy cholesterol levels through healthy eating, regular exercise, decreased body fat, and bioidentical hormone therapy. They have stopped their cholesterol medications or never started.

“A study published in the journal Pharmacotherapy in 2009 found that three out of four people using these drugs [statins] experienced adverse cognitive effects “probably or definitely related to” the drug. The researchers also found that 90 percent of the patients who stopped statin therapy reported improvements in cognition, sometimes within days. In February 2012, the Food and Drug Administration ordered drug companies to add a new warning label about possible memory problems to the prescribing information for statins.”

Treating the causes of hypertension (high blood pressure)

Most of us hopefully know that drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, head injuries, stroke, sleep deprivation, severe stress, vitamin B12 deficiency, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression can impair memory. Not all of know that excess body fat, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, hormonal deficiencies and stress (cortisol) play a major role in hypertension and all aspects of our health.

Our next blog will specifically explain in detail how you can lower your blood pressure naturally. For now, we can say that excess body fat is a significant cause of hypertension. Lose weight and typically your blood pressure drops. Thousands of our clients have lowered their blood pressure to healthy levels and gotten off their blood pressure medicines by losing weight and eating healthy.

Pharmaceutical grade magnesium can help lower blood pressure and serves many other functions in our body. Regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain and reduces unhealthy body fat. Optimal levels of the bioidentical hormones, thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, help maintain memory and brain health.

Reversing type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“High blood pressure affects about 1 in 3 American adults and increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercise, weight management, and a healthy diet are important ways to help prevent high blood pressure. Working out also boosts the effectiveness of blood pressure medication if you’re already being treated for hypertension.” WebMD

Our goal at Natural Bio Health is for you to NOT NEED blood pressure medications.


See July 10, 2013 Blog to Learn How to Prevent and Treat Hypertension Naturally

Disclaimer: Some of the information in this blog is based on personal experience and there is no single scholarly article backing the claims of this blog. Nevertheless, the information is based on reputable sources and is believed to be factually correct.

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