News Thursday August 11, 2011

High blood pressure may lead to cognitive problems, study suggests

A new study has revealed that high blood pressure in middle age is one of several risk factors that can affect cognitive ability in later life.

High blood pressure was one of several causes for concern in relation to cognition highlighted by the study, alongside diabetes, obesity and smoking. The study, which was published by the American Academy of Neurology, involved over 1,350 people who had an average age of 54 at the start of the study. The participants were observed over a ten year period, and underwent a series of tests including those for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. They were also measured for waist circumference and mass.

The results showed that those who were identified as having high blood pressure developed damage to their blood vessels in the brain over small areas. These developments occurred at a faster rate than people who did not have high blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure also scored lower on cognitive tests on planning, organisation and decision-making skills than those with normal blood pressure.

Dr. Charles DeCarli, quoted in the Toronto Sun, is a professor at the University of California at Davis in Sacramento, as well as being a Fellow with the American Academy of Neurology, who published the study. He said that “[t]hese factors appeared to cause the brain to lose volume... and also appeared to affects its ability to plan and make decisions as quickly as 10 years later.” He also said that “[o]ur findings provide evidence that identifying these risk factors early in people of middle age could be useful in screening people for at-risk dementia and encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyle before it’s too late.”

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