A new study has suggested that high blood pressure in midlife could predict cognitive decline in later life. The study, which followed thousands of people for 20 years, is published on Monday 4 August in the journal JAMA Neurology.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US looked at data from 13,476 people who were enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. When the participants were recruited to the study in the late 1980s, aged between 45 and 64, their blood pressure was measured and a series of tests of thinking and memory skills were carried out. These cognitive tests were repeated three more times in the following 20 years.
The results showed that those who had high blood pressure at the start of the study were more likely to have experienced a more severe decline in their cognitive scores over the course of the study.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This large-scale, long-term study adds further weight to an evidence base linking high blood pressure to a risk of cognitive decline. Although this research is not able to establish cause and effect, a large body of research suggests that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. It’s important to note that this study did not look specifically at dementia, and the link between high blood pressure and cognitive decline was only found in midlife rather than in later life, highlighting the complexity of research in this area.
“With an ageing population the number of people with dementia is set to grow, so investment in research to find preventions is crucial. In the meantime, controlling blood pressure is one way to lower the risk of dementia, along with eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, not smoking and keeping your weight in check.”