High blood pressure at any age can increase dementia risk

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Researchers say high blood pressure at any age can increase a person’s risk for dementia later in life. They add that the risk isn’t affected by how long someone has high blood pressure. Experts say there are ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure, ranging from medications to exercise to diet. High blood pressure at any age may speed up cognitive decline. That’s the conclusion of a study published today in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
Researchers say they found that even slightly elevated blood pressure in middle age or older was linked to faster cognitive decline. “We initially anticipated that the negative effects of hypertension on cognitive function would be more critical when hypertension started at a younger age,” Sandhi Maria Barreto, PhD, an author of the study, said in a press release. Barreto is also a professor of medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
“However, our results show similar accelerated cognitive performance decline whether hypertension started in middle age or at older ages,” she explained. “We also found that effectively treating high blood pressure at any age in adulthood could reduce or prevent this acceleration. Collectively, the findings suggest hypertension needs to be prevented, diagnosed, and effectively treated in adults of any age to preserve cognitive function.”
In the United States, nearly halfTrusted Source of adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Just one in four American adults with high blood pressure have their condition under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers said that they found that adults who have uncontrolled hypertension often experienced faster decline in memory and cognitive function than adults with hypertension that was well controlled.
“In addition to other proven benefits of blood pressure control, our results highlight the importance of diagnosing and controlling hypertension in patients of any age to prevent or slow down cognitive decline,” Barreto said. “Our results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline,” she added.
In undertaking the research, Barreto and her colleagues analyzed data from a study that captured information regarding blood pressure and cognitive health function of more than 7,000 adults in Brazil. The average age of the participants was 59 at the start of the study. The participants were followed for 4 years and underwent tests of their memory, executive function, and verbal fluency.

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