Treating high blood pressure may slow cognitive decline
High blood pressure appears to accelerate cognitive decline among middle-aged and older adults, but treating high blood pressure may slow cognitive decline, according to a new preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.
In the observational study, researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, led by senior author L.H. Lumey, professor of epidemiology, analyzed data collected on nearly 11,000 adults from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) between 2011 and 2015 to assess how high blood pressure and its treatment may influence cognitive decline. High blood pressure was defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher, or taking antihypertensive treatment, according to the study abstract.
Researchers interviewed study participants at home about their high blood pressure treatment, education level and noted if they lived in a rural or urban environment. They were also asked to perform cognitive tests, such as immediately recalling words as part of a memory quiz.
Overall cognition scores declined over the four-year study. Participants ages 55 and older who had high blood pressure showed a more rapid rate of cognitive decline compared with participants who were being treated for high blood pressure and those who did not have high blood pressure. Additionally, the rate of cognitive decline was similar between those taking high blood pressure treatment and those who did not have high blood pressure.
The study did not evaluate why or how high blood pressure treatments may have contributed to slower cognitive decline or if some treatments were more effective than others.
According to the American Heart Association's 2017 Hypertension Guidelines, high blood pressure affects approximately 80 million U.S. adults and one billion people globally. Moreover, the relationship between brain health and high blood pressure is a growing interest as researchers examine how elevated blood pressure affects the brain's blood vessels, which in turn, may impact memory, language, and thinking skills.
"The findings are important,” Lumey said, “because high blood pressure and cognitive decline are two of the most common conditions associated with aging, and more people are living longer, worldwide.”