New research has found that the state of high blood pressure tends to accelerate a decrease in cognitive activity.
The study, published in the journal Hypertension, American Heart Association, revealed that about half of American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension.
It added that having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cognitive decline. This includes reductions in memory, verbal fluency, attention, and concentration.
Blood pressure of 120 mmHg – 129 mmHg systolic (the highest number in reading) or higher is considered elevated. Systolic pressure above 130 mmHg, or diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 80 mmHg or higher is considered hypertension.
“We initially predicted 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 activity decrease whether hypertension started in middle age or in older ages,” said study author Sandhi M Barreto, MD, M.Sc., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Barreto added: “We also found that effectively treating high blood pressure at any age in adulthood could decrease or prevent this acceleration. Collectively the findings suggest that hypertension should be prevented, diagnosed and effectively treated in adults of any age to maintain cognitive function. . “
For the study, Barreto and colleagues examined results from current research that included blood pressure and cognitive health information for more than 7000 adults in Brazil. The average age of Brazilians was about 59 years.
The study participants were followed on average for almost four years; testing included analysis of memory, verbal fluency, and executive function, which includes attention, concentration, and other factors associated with thinking and reasoning.
The study found systolic blood pressure between 121 and 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 81 and 89 mmHg without antihypertensive drug use associated with accelerated cognitive activity decreases among middle-aged and older individuals.
The rate of decline in cognition occurred regardless of duration of hypertension, meaning that high blood pressure during any time, even a short period of time, could affect a person’s rate of cognitive decline. Adults with uncontrolled hypertension tended to experience particularly faster decreases in memory and global cognitive function than adults who controlled hypertension.
“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 cognitive decline. Our results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life because even prehypertensive levels were associated with cognitive decline, ”Barreto said.