New Study: Blood Pressure, Combined with This, Seriously Influences Dementia Risk

Updated: Jul. 09, 2024

A leading professor of geriatric medicine finds "high-level evidence" for two things to add to your life—plus two to avoid—to maintain a healthy memory.

According to the World Health Organization, 55 million people around the world have dementia, the symptoms of which can range from issues with memory and language to big changes in mood.

While research has shown that activities like brain games or other memory exercises can help you protect your mind from dementia, many other seemingly unrelated factors also play into your long-term cognition. For example, a June 2024 review published in Maturitas, an international journal publishing research on midlife health, highlighted two particular health metrics that appear to play roles in long-term cognitive (brain) wellness.

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This comprehensive review by Leon Flicker, MB, BS, NSW, PhD, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Western Australia and executive director of the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing [sic], was partly based on a May 2023 lecture from the 14th European Congress on Menopause and Andropause. Dr. Flicker evaluated various strategies for preventing cognitive decline to identify which lifestyle changes could make a difference in long-term brain health.

Dr. Flicker found “high-level” evidence that managing blood pressure and engaging in regular physical activity can have protective effects on memory. One trial he evaluated showed that managing hypertension can “significantly” reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, while numerous studies he examined affirm the cognitive benefits of regular exercise—particularly resistance training.

Though Dr. Flicker notes that the research varies, other factors he studied can also affect brain health. According to the review, completing higher levels of education and having a more active social life are both associated with lower dementia risk, emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning and maintaining strong relationships. Avoiding head injuries and quitting smoking are also crucial for brain health, though direct evidence linking them to dementia prevention is limited.

While Dr. Flicker says further research may be needed, these findings underscore the importance of a holistic approach to maintaining cognitive function through healthy lifestyle choices. That morning crossword and cutting back on binge-watching sessions can be good for your brain, as is a general commitment to your health to protect your memory for years to come.