blood pressure linked to mental decline
high blood pressure may be a risk factor for intellectual decline
in older individuals, researchers report.
with high blood pressure should be encouraged to get it under
control in order to avoid this harmful effect," said study lead
author Dr. Christophe Tzourio of the Hopital de la Salpètrière
in Paris, France.
have long suspected that arterial disease and unrecognized 'mini-strokes'
linked to high blood pressure could be a cause of age-related
In their study, Tzourio's team compared 4-year patterns of mental
function and blood pressure in over 1,300 individuals ranging
between 59 and 71 years of age.
They report that "in individuals with high blood pressure, cognitive
(intellectual) decline occurred in a relatively short time period,"
compared with patients with normal, healthy blood pressures.
Risks for mental decline were highest among hypertensive patients
who failed to control their blood pressure with available medications.
According to the researchers, these patients were at 6 times the
risk for a significant loss of mental ability over 2 years than
patients with healthy blood pressures. Overall, about 22% of patients
with uncontrolled hypertension experienced significant declines
in mental function over the course of the 4-year study.
is a major issue," Tzourio said in a statement from the American
Academy of Neurology. "If high blood pressure and other vascular
factors play a role in dementia, then it might be possible to
prevent or delay the occurrence of this dreadful disease by controlling
high blood pressure."
However, Tzourio pointed out that direct links between blood pressure
and mental function remain controversial.
have only indirect arguments for this relationship at this time,"
he said, cautioning that "more studies are needed" to confirm
In the meantime, however, he suggests that patients work to bring
their hypertension under control. Healthy diets, exercise, and
antihypertensive drug therapies can all help bring blood pressure
numbers down and reduce risks for heart attack and stroke.
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