High Blood Pressure Causes Problems Regardless of Age

High blood pressure, particularly in middle age, can still have lasting negative effects on cognitive function regardless of age, a new analysis suggests.

The researchers, publishing in Hypertension, looked at whether hypertension, prehypertnsion, age, blood pressure control, and duration of diagnosis were linked with a decline in cognitive performance in ELSSA-Brazil participants. The study design was that of a longitudinal study that included 7,063 participants (mean age 58.9 years) in whom cognitive performance was measured in clinical visits and in standardized scores of memory, verbal fluency, trail B tests, and global cognitive score. Participant blood pressure was taken at baseline.

According to the results, hypertension and prehypertension at baseline were associated with a decline in global cognitive score. Hypertension was associated with a decline in the memory test, and prehypertension was linked with a reduction in the fluency test. In persons 55 and older, hypertension was linked with lower global cognitive and memory test scores, and was linked with lower memory test scores in patients under age 55 as well. Adults with uncontrolled hypertension experienced faster declines in memory and global cognitive function than those who had controlled hypertension.

“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,” Sandhi M. Barreto, MD, MSc, PhD, study author and professor of medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, said 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.”