High blood pressure speeds up cognitive decline, but not the only culprit

Credit: National Cancer Institute/ Unsplash

In a study from the University of Michigan, scientists found people with high blood pressure levels face a faster erosion of their ability to think, make decisions and remember information than those with normal blood pressure levels.

The team looked at changes in the thinking and memory abilities of adults over 18 who took part in six long-term studies conducted over the past five decades.

On average, they had access to nearly eight years of data from each person, including systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in any blood pressure reading.

They traced high blood pressure’s association with declining brain function over years, in data from six large studies that they pooled and analyzed.

They showed that blood pressure-related cognitive decline happens at the same pace in people of Hispanic heritage as in non-Hispanic white people.

The team had set out to see if differences in long-term blood pressure control explained why Hispanic people face a 50% higher overall risk of dementia by the end of their life than non-Hispanic white people in the United States.

But the new findings suggest that other factors may play a bigger role in that disparity.

Nevertheless, the new study serves as an important reminder of the key role that controlling blood pressure plays in long-term brain health.

The team says the findings suggest that high blood pressure causes faster cognitive decline and that taking hypertension medication slows the pace of that decline.

Since other studies have shown that people of Hispanic heritage in the United States tend to have higher rates of uncontrolled hypertension than non-Hispanic white people, due in part to worse access to care, it’s vital that they get extra support to control their blood pressure even if blood pressure is only part of the picture when it comes to their higher dementia risk.

A risk factor like uncontrolled high blood pressure that is more prevalent in one group can still contribute to substantial health disparities.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about cannabis linked to blood pressure reduction in older people, and red onion skin could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how to live with high blood pressure, and results showing these fruits could slow down brain aging and cognitive decline.

The study was conducted by Deborah Levine et al and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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