High Blood Pressure Linked to Cognitive Decline

There exists a link between high blood pressure and cognitive decline, and treating high blood pressure may slow the process, according to a preliminary study presented by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

According to the American Heart Association’s 2017 Hypertension Guidelines, high blood pressure affects approximately 80 million adults in the US and one billion people globally. Researchers are investigating the correlation between high blood pressure and brain health, and how elevated blood pressure negatively affects the brain’s blood vessels.

In this observational study, the researchers analyzed data collected on nearly 11,000 adults from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) between 2011-2015, to discern the effects of high blood pressure and its treatment on cognitive decline. High blood pressure was defined in the study as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher, and/or taking antihypertensive treatment.

Researchers interviewed study participants at home and asked about their high blood pressure treatment, education level while noting if they lived in a rural or urban area. Moreover, the participants were also asked to perform cognitive tests, such as immediately recalling words as part of a memory quiz.

Findings Highlight the Need for BP Screenings

According to the results of the study, cognition scores dropped over the four-year study period, and participants aged 55 and older who had high blood pressure exhibited a faster rate of cognitive decline when juxtaposed with participants without high blood pressure. Overall, researchers observed a similar rate of cognitive decline between those taking high blood pressure treatment and those without a normal blood pressure rate.

“The findings are important because high blood pressure and cognitive decline are two of the most common conditions associated with aging, and more people are living longer, worldwide,” said L.H. Lumey, professor of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School and senior author in a press release.

“We think efforts should be made to expand high blood pressure screenings, especially for at-risk populations, because so many people are not aware that they have high blood pressure that should be treated,” said presenting study author Shumin Rui, a biostatistician at Columbia Mailman School.

“This study focused on middle-aged and older adults in China, but we believe our results could apply to populations elsewhere as well. We need to better understand how high blood pressure treatments may protect against cognitive decline and look at how high blood pressure and cognitive decline are occurring together.”