In the song “Somebody to Love,” Etta James offers good advice about heart health: “I recommend you get some life insurance/ Be prepared to dial 911/ Pay close attention to your high blood pressure.”
The legendary blues singer, who recorded the song in 2003 at age 64 — a few years before she developed Alzheimer's disease — was definitely onto something, even though the advice came too late for her to dodge dementia.
It turns out that high blood pressure (also called hypertension) may play a big role in priming the brain for Alzheimer's.
A study published in The Lancet that tracked a group of people from birth in 1946 until 2017 found that participants who had elevated blood pressure (from 120/80 mmHg to 139/89 mmHg) between ages 43 and 53, and high blood pressure (140/90 or above) at age 53 also had measurably smaller brain volume and more white matter lesions at age 70.
That's important news, because it's estimated that half of Americans ages 18 to 39 have high blood pressure, and half of them are untreated.
Whatever your age, you should have your blood pressure monitored as part of your annual physical. If you do have high blood pressure or prehypertension, make a plan now to prevent future heart and brain problems.
The first steps include getting 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity weekly and 10,000 steps a day, plus seven to nine servings of fruits and veggies daily.
Anti-hypertensive medication also may be required (there are 150 types and side effects can be managed). It's very effective when combined with smart living.