Why High Blood Pressure is a Concern at Any Age - Wakunaga of America


Why High Blood Pressure is a Concern at Any Age

High blood pressure—technically known as hypertension—isn’t something most people think about until they hit their 50s. But recent studies suggest that may be too late.

How High Blood Pressure In Your 30’s May Raise Your Risk of Dementia Later In Life

According to research out of UC Davis, having high blood pressure in your 30s can set you up for dementia in your 70s.1 Compared to people with healthy blood pressure, the study found that young adults with hypertension had less grey matter (the type of brain tissue that allows you to process information) and lower fractional anisotropy (a measure in how well your neurons can “talk” to each other). They also had less volume in their frontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs executive function. What’s more, compared to someone with hypertension, a person with ideal blood pressure is predicted to have a brain that appears more than six months younger in midlife!2

This study isn’t the first time researchers have sounded the alarm about the brain-changing effects of hypertension in young and middle aged adults. An earlier study that appeared in the European Heart Journal reported a strong association between elevated diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a BP reading) before the age of 50 and poorer brain health in later life.3 That was true even if the diastolic number was within what’s normally considered healthy.

And surprisingly, hypertension among the young is more common than you might think. In fact, 22.4 percent of young adults, age 18-39, have high blood pressure. And more than half of all people age 40 to 59 are living with hypertension. 4  And, since high blood pressure doesn’t typically have any symptoms, many of these people don’t know they have it. That’s a problem because hypertension raises your risk of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. No wonder it’s often called the “silent killer!” But, no matter what your age, there are plenty of things you can do to bring your blood pressure into a healthy range and, at the same time, proactively protect your brain.

Understanding the Link Between Your Heart and Your Brain

Clinical studies are increasingly discovering that there’s a close connection between your brain and your cardiovascular system—and that’s especially true when it comes to your blood vessels. Healthy blood vessels bring oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the brain, especially to areas of the brain most responsible for memory. But hypertension damages the blood vessels that feed the brain. Along with reducing the amount of blood that flows to brain cells, high blood pressure also causes the blood-brain barrier to break down due to increased inflammation and oxidative stress. This, in turn, exposes your neurons to harmful molecules that can, over time, contribute to cognitive decline.5

“Smart” Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure

 A lot of factors contribute to dementia. Some, like your genes, are outside of your control. But many, including your blood pressure, can be improved. And this can reduce your risk of developing cognitive and memory issues later in life. Here are four things you can do to improve, and maybe even optimize, your blood pressure, starting today!

  1. Get tested. It’s important to get your blood pressure tested on a regular basis. This non-invasive test is quick and easy and will give you a baseline to work from. Wonder what all those numbers mean? Here’s a cheat sheet to help you know where you stand:
Blood Pressure


Systolic mm Hg

(top number)

Diastolic mm Hg

(bottom number)

Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 and Less than 80
High BP, Stage 1 130-139 or 80-89
High BP, Stage 2 140 or Higher or 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120

Source: American Heart Association

  1. Check your salt…and your potassium. Studies show that consuming high amounts of salt can contribute to high blood pressure.6 But sodium alone isn’t the problem—it’s the combination of too much sodium and too little potassium.7 When potassium is depleted, the body’s cells gobble up the sodium to make up for the loss. Ideally, the World Health Organization recommends a diet that contains less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day and more than 3,510 mg of potassium per day.8 Potassium-rich foods include avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, cooked spinach, honeydew melon, milk, orange juice, potatoes with skin, prunes, raisins, red beans, and tomato juice.
  2. Add some exercise. Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with mild-to-moderate hypertension.9 As a bonus, exercise is also good for your brain. What’s the most effective type of exercise? While traditionalists point to aerobic exercises like brisk walking, biking, or running, more recent studies show that a combination of aerobic and resistance training is even more effective for reigning in high blood pressure. In one study of older men, those who alternated between strength training using resistance bands and walking or running on a treadmill and cycling on a stationary bike experienced a significant drop in their blood pressure.10 Just remember, to get the most blood pressure lowering benefits from exercise, it needs to become a habit most days of the week.
  3. Supplement this! Adding targeted supplements can also help to keep your blood pressure in check. One of the most effective is Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). A 2020 analysis of 12 clinical trials that was published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that a daily dose of AGE lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 8.3 mmHg and diastolic pressure by about 5.5 mmHg in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. This drop in blood pressure was associated with a 16–40 percent reduction in the risk of a future cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke. Earlier studies have reported similar results, leading researchers to conclude that aging this powerful herb offers benefits similar to first-line blood pressure medication.11  But unlike pharmaceuticals, AGE is extremely safe with no side effects.


  1. George KM,Maillard P, Gilsanz P, et al. Association of early adulthood hypertension and blood pressure change with late-life neuroimaging biomarkers. JAMA Network Open. 2023;6(4):e236431.
  2. Cherbuin N, Walsh EI, Shaw M, et al. Optimal blood pressure keeps our brains younger. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2021;13:694982.
  3. Above-normal blood pressure in midlife linked to increased brain damage in later life. Cardiovascular Journal of Africa. 2021;32(4):192–7.
  4. Ostchega Y, Fryar CD, Nwankwo T, et al. Hypertension prevalence among adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2027-2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db364.htm
  5. Pires PW, Dams Ramos CM, Matin N, et al. The effects of hypertension on the cerebral circulation. American Journal of Physiology, Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2013;304(12):H1598-614.
  6. Gupta DK, Lewis CE, Varady KA, et al. Effect of dietary sodium on blood pressure: A crossover trial. 2023;330(23):2258-66.
  7. Levings JL, Gunn JP. The imbalance of sodium and potassium intake: implications for dietetic practice. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114(6):838-41.
  8. Vulin M, Magušić L, Metzger AM, et al. Sodium-to-potassium ratio as an indicator of diet quality in healthy pregnant women. 2022;14(23):5052.
  9. Barone GB, Hivert MF, Jerome GJ, et al. Physical activity as a critical component of first-line treatment for elevated blood pressure or cholesterol: who, what, and how?: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2021;78(2):e26-e37.
  10. Park W, Jung WS, Hong K, et al. Effects of moderate combined resistance- and aerobic-exercise for 12 weeks on body composition, cardiometabolic risk factors, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and physical functions, among obese older men: A pilot study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020;17(19):7233.
  11. Vila-Nova TMS, Barbosa KBF, Freire ARS, et al. Effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular markers in hypertensive patients and its relationship with dietary intake. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020;112:105931.
  12. Silva H, Martins FG. Cardiovascular activity of ginkgo biloba-an insight from healthy subjects. Biology (Basel). 2022;12(1):15.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.