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High Blood Pressure Linked to Memory Problems in Middle Age

Reported August 25, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – High blood pressure is linked to memory problems in people over 45, according to a new study. The study found that people with high diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number of a blood pressure reading, were more likely to have problems with memory and thinking skills than people with normal diastolic readings.

Research has shown that high diastolic blood pressure leads to weakening of small arteries in the brain, which can result in the development of small areas of brain damage.

For every 10-point increase in the reading, the odds of a person having cognitive problems increased by 7 percent. The results were valid after adjusting for other factors that could affect cognitive abilities, such as age, smoking, exercise level, education, diabetes or high cholesterol.



The study involved nearly 20,000 people age 45 and older across the country who participated in the Reasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study. Participants had never had a stroke or mini-stroke. A total of 1,505 participants, or 7.6 percent, had cognitive problems, and 9,844, or 49.6 percent, were taking medication for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is defined as a reading equal to or higher than 140/90 or taking medication for high blood pressure.

“It’s possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia,” study author Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham was quoted as saying.

“The REGARDS study is one of the largest population-based studies of risk factors for stroke. These latest data suggest that higher blood pressure may be a risk factor for cognitive decline, but further studies will be necessary to understand the cause-effect relationship,” Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, deputy director of NINDS and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology is quoted as saying. “The National Institutes of Health is now organizing a large clinical trial to evaluate whether aggressive blood pressure lowering can decrease a number of important health outcomes including cognitive decline.”

SOURCE: Neurology, August 25, 2009