Study shows why you need to get your blood pressure under control

You don’t have to be an older adult to have cognitive decline, according to new research

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There are many reasons why you should lower your blood pressure and another reason is to keep your memory and other cognitive functions sharp.

New research from the American Heart Association shows that memory and concentration are among the mental functions that may decline at a quicker rate among middle-aged and older adults who have high blood pressure compared to those who don’t.

The research, which was published Monday in the journal, Hypertension, showed that blood pressure that appeared even slightly elevated in middle and older age people was tied to a quicker drop in cognition.

“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,” said study author Dr. Sandhi M. Barreto, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in a press release.

“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.”

Using an existing study, the team analyzed blood pressure and cognitive health information for over 7,000 adults in Brazil. On average, their age was around 59 at the beginning of the study. For nearly four years, the study tracked participants and their testing included evaluations of memory, verbal fluency and analysis of attention, concentration and factors tied to thinking and reasoning.

In analyzing the study, researchers found a link between quicker cognitive decline among middle-aged and older individuals when the top number of a blood pressure reading — systolic blood pressure — was between 121 and 139 mmHg. They also found that association when the bottom number of a blood pressure reading — the diastolic blood pressure — was between 81 and 89 mmHg with no use of blood pressure-lowering medication.

Researchers also discovered that high blood pressure for any period may affect a person’s speed of cognitive decline, as it occurred regardless of how long someone had hypertension.

Adults with controlled high blood pressure had slower declines in memory and cognitive function compared to those whose hypertension was uncontrolled; they had significantly speedier rates of decline.

“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 said. “Our results also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline.”