High blood pressure speeds up mental decline

Credit: CDC/ 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.

In the study, 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.

The researchers 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.

The size of the data set allowed them to trace blood pressure readings and changes on tests of cognitive performance, executive function, and memory in Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults more clearly than any one smaller data set could.

The researchers are currently studying other aspects of cognitive decline disparities, including her own team’s research on post-stroke cognitive declines.

Having a stroke can increase the risk of dementia fifty-fold, but it is not known yet what impact controlling vascular risk factors such as blood pressure and blood sugar can have on dementia risk after a stroke.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about a major cause of high blood pressure, and the most used method of measuring blood pressure is often inaccurate.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that black tea may strongly reduce blood pressure, and results showing these high blood pressure drugs may increase heart failure risk.

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

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