Researchers in Brazil said high blood pressure can accelerate a decline in cognitive performance in middle-aged and older adults.
According to the results of a new research published yesterday in the journal ‘Hypertension,’ having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cognitive decline, which includes such things as memory, verbal fluency, attention and concentration.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition in which the force of the blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure often has no symptoms. Over time, if untreated, it can cause health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure of 120 mmHg—129 mmHg systolic (the top number in a reading) or higher is considered elevated, data from the American Heart Association (AHA) show.
Similarly, systolic pressure above 130 mmHg, or diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 80 mmHg or higher is considered hypertension. Study author Sandhi M. Barreto, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, said.
“We initially anticipated that the negative effects of hypertension on cognitive function would be more critical when hypertension started at a younger age, however, our results show similar accelerated cognitive performance decline whether hypertension started in middle age or at older ages.
“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.”
Barreto and colleagues analysed findings from an existing study that included blood pressure and cognitive health information for more than 7,000 adults in Brazil, whose average age was about 59 years old at the study’s start.
The study participants were followed for an average of nearly four years; testing included analysis of memory, verbal fluency and executive function, which includes attention, concentration and other factors associated with thinking and reasoning.
They found that systolic blood pressure between 121 and 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 81 and 89 mmHg with no antihypertensive medication use was associated with accelerated cognitive performance decline among middle-aged and older individuals.
The speed of decline in cognition happened regardless of hypertension duration, meaning high blood pressure for any length of time, even a short duration, might impact a person’s speed of cognitive decline.