As a family caregiver for your aging loved one, you might already be vigilant about memory loss worrying about the possibility of your senior developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. If you start to notice that your loved one is showing signs of memory loss, such as losing their keys, struggling to remember names, or telling you the same story a couple of times on the same day, you do not necessarily need to start worrying immediately about dementia. There are many different issues and conditions that can contribute to the loss of memory, one of which is hypertension.

Also referred to as high blood pressure, hypertension is a very common issue among elderly adults. Many people immediately associate this condition with serious health risks such as coronary artery disease, heart disease, stroke, and increased risk of certain types of cancer. For many aging adults, however, one of the main side effects of high blood pressure can actually be short-term memory loss and increased difficulty recalling memories.Recent studies have indicated that high blood pressure leads to damage to the blood vessels. This contributes to buildup of plaque and other tissues which can loosen and move in the blood, getting trapped within the smaller vessels. When this happens, blood clots can occur, preventing the proper levels of nutrients and oxygen from getting to the brain. When the cells in the brain do not get enough oxygen, they die. Should this cell death occur in the area of the brain that is responsible for developing and recalling memories, short-term memory loss and memory recall struggles can occur.It is an unfortunate reality that many elderly adults who have hypertension do not even realize it, putting them at risk of suffering these cognitive problems and not knowing why. By undergoing regular screenings and proper medical checkups, these seniors can keep better track of their blood pressure and know when it is reaching potentially dangerous levels. This enables the seniors to take control of their health and make changes that can lower their blood pressure, protecting their bodies and their minds.

Some of the ways that you can help protect your parents’ memory through managing hypertension include:

• Make sure that they visit the doctor on a proper schedule and get blood pressure screenings at each visit. Mention any memory issues you have noticed recently so that the doctor is aware of your concern and can discuss the potential with you.
• Ask the doctor what a health blood pressure reading should be for your parents and how far off of that they are so that you can gain perspective on how much they need to change in order to be at a safer point.
• Modify their diet to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, including lowering sodium intake and decreasing consumption of saturated fats, red meat, and processed foods.
• Encourage higher levels of physical activity on a regular basis. This not only promotes a healthier weight and helps to lower blood pressure, it also encourages stronger and more efficient blood flow, reducing the changes of blood clots.