This site is intended for health professionals only

Study: Hypertension linked to dementia in old age

Patients with high blood pressure have an increased risk of developing dementia in old age, researchers have discovered. 

A study published in JAMA Neurology showed that patients with hypertension had a 6.5% greater reduction in cognitive function than those with a normal blood pressure. 

Researchers said that although the reduction was 'modest', the increased risk of dementia means that the public health burden of hypertension should be “significantly” raised. 

No link was established between high blood pressure in later-life and cognitive decline. 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US examined data from 13,476 participants over 23.5 years. 

“Initiating treatment in late life might be too late to prevent this important shift. Epidemiological data, including our own study, support midlife blood pressure as a more important predictor of - and possibly target for prevention of - late-life cognitive function than is later-life BP,” the researchers wrote. 

Cognitive decline for participants with a normal blood pressure was around 0.840, whereas people with hypertension had a cognitive decline of 0.896 on average. 

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'This large-scale, long-term study adds further weight to an evidence base linking high BP 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.” 

An outline of Midlife Hypertension and 20-Year Cognitive Change is available on the JAMA Neurology website.