Patients with high blood pressure are more likely to develop memory problems in middle age than those who do not have the condition, according to a new study.
By Kate Devlin,
The research adds to growing evidence of a link between blood pressure and an early stage of dementia or even dementia itself. Scientists found that people with high blood pressure were more likely to have problems with recall and other mental skills, signs of a condition called mild cognitive impairment.
Dr Georgios Tsivgoulis, from the University of Alabama, who led the study, said: “It's possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia.”
Patients are considered to have high blood pressure if their measurements are higher than 140/90 mmHg.
The study found a link between memory problems and with high diastolic blood pressure – which measures the pressure in your blood vessels between heartbeats, and is the second number in a blood pressure measurement. For every 10 point increase in the reading, the chances of a person suffering from cognitive problems was increased by 7 per cent, according to the findings, published in the journal Neurology.
The study looked at almost 20,000 people, aged 45 or older, almost one in 13 of whom suffered from some form of memory problems. Previous studies have shown that high diastolic blood pressure can lead to a weakening of arteries in the brain, which can result in small areas of brain damage. Research will now begin into whether aggressively lowering blood pressure can prevent memory problems from developing.
An estimated 700,000 people in Britain suffer from dementia, with 400,000 suffering from Alzheimer’s, the most common form of the disease.