High blood pressure at any age may speed cognitive decline

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In a new study, researchers found high blood pressure appears to accelerate a decline in cognitive performance in middle-aged and older adults.

The research was conducted by a team at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.

Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension.

Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cognitive decline, which includes such things as memory, verbal fluency, attention and concentration.

Blood pressure of 120 mmHg – 129 mmHg systolic (the top number in a reading) or higher is considered elevated.

Systolic pressure above 130 mmHg, or diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 80 mmHg or higher is considered hypertension.

In the study, the team analyzed findings from an existing study that included blood pressure and cognitive health information for more than 7,000 adults, whose average age was about 59 years old at the study’s start.

The study participants were followed for an average of nearly 4 years.

The team found systolic blood pressure between 121 and 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 81 and 89 mmHg with no blood pressure drug use was linked to accelerated cognitive performance decline among middle-aged and older individuals.

The speed of decline in cognition happened regardless of high blood pressure duration, meaning high blood pressure for any length of time, even a short duration, might impact a person’s speed of cognitive decline.

Adults with uncontrolled high blood pressure tended to experience notably faster declines in memory and global cognitive function than adults who had controlled hypertension.

In addition to other proven benefits of blood pressure control, the results highlight the importance of diagnosing and controlling hypertension in patients of any age to prevent or slow down cognitive decline.

The results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline.

One author of the study is Sandhi M. Barreto, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., a professor of medicine.

The study is published in Hypertension.

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