What’s good for your heart is likely also good for your brain
Women with high blood pressure in middle age have a 73 percent increased risk of developing dementia in old age compared to women who not have hypertension, according to a large study.
Surprisingly, men’s blood pressure did not affect their risk of developing the disease.
The research team from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Northern California tracked 7238 people from the mid-1960s. Then, in 1996, the researchers got back in touch with the 5646 patients who were still alive. They assessed which ones had been monitored with dementia and who hadn’t, and followed them all for another 15 years.
The scientists found having high blood pressure in early adulthood was not associated with an increased risk of dementia. But women who developed high blood pressure in their 40s were 73 percent more likely to develop dementia than those without hypertension in middle age.
“High blood pressure in midlife is a known risk factor for dementia, but these results may help us better understand when this association starts, how changes in blood pressure affect the risk of dementia and what the differences are between men and women,” said study author Dr Rachel Whitmer.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research at Alzheimer’s Society said that although there is much evidence that high blood pressure in mid-life can increase our chances of developing dementia in later life, there needs to be more research to understand possible sex differences in blood pressure and dementia risk.
“‘We should be mindful that this study tested the blood pressure of people in a particular health-scheme in Northern California in the 1960s and 70s. Since then there have been advances in how blood pressure is treated – so it’s not clear how relevant the findings of this study are to the present UK population.”
The NHS recommends that people over 40 should have their blood pressure tested every five years. Your GP or local pharmacist can do this for you.