Posted on Dec 15, 2020, 4 p.m.
According to research from the American Heart Association having high blood pressure issues, at any age can also create danger for the brain as well, finding that even slightly elevated blood pressure for any period of time can lead to faster cognitive decline in adults.
According to the researchers, hypertension is a risk factor for issues with memory, verbal fluency, attention, and concentration. Systolic blood pressure between 120 mmHg and 129 mmHg is considered to be elevated, with anything over 130 mmHg or diastolic pressure over 80 mmHg being considered to be hypertension by most health experts.
“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,” says study author Sandhi M. Barreto, a professor of medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.“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.”
Data was gathered on over 7,000 adults in Brazil with an average age of 59 years old, participant blood pressure readings and cognitive health was looked at for close to 4 years. The study published in the AHA journal Hypertension examined the thinking and reasoning skills of the participants through tests on speech quality, alertness, and memory.
Those with systolic blood pressure between 121 and 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 81 and 89 mmHg who were not taking any medications were found to experience faster declines in their cognitive abilities, and this change occurs in both middle-aged and older participants.
The researchers suggest that the speed of this decline was found to have no link to the length of time that a person had hypertension, meaning that having high blood pressure, even for a short period of time, can impact the speed at which mental sharpness decline and those with uncontrolled hypertension tended to experience faster rates of cognitive impairment.
“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 adds. “Our results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline.”
“Although the participants of our study are adults from Brazil, we believe that our findings are applicable to other regions. Previous studies have shown that similar unhealthy behaviors and risk factors, including hypertension, are common in the development of cardiovascular diseases in different populations across the globe,” Barreto concludes.
In addition to faster rates of mental decline and impairment, those with hypertension and high blood pressure are at an increased risk for both stroke and heart attack, especially if the condition is left untreated. The American Heart Association estimates that nearly half of the adults in America have either high blood pressure or hypertension.
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