- A new study published in the journal Hypertension suggests that uncontrollable high blood pressure can take a toll on memory and thinking skills as early as young middle-age.
- Findings also showed that even middle-aged people who are not hypertensive have been observed to have had some form of mental decline.
- However, cognitive decline was lower in participants who took meds and adopted healthy habits to manage their hypertension.
High blood pressure can wreak havoc on a person’s memory and thinking skills as early as young middle-age and even the brains of middle-aged people who hadn’t developed hypertension, a new Brazilian study suggests.
“As a practical matter, this suggests that we must prevent hypertension at any age in order to avoid its deleterious effect on cognitive [thinking] decline,” said Dr. Sandhi Barreto, study author and professor at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
“Whether or not high blood pressure directly triggers mental decline, remains an open question, however, given that “proof of causation is very difficult,” added Barreto.
But even if it does, she said it is still good news because this means the thinking skills can still be preserved by controlling high blood pressure via medications and lifestyle interventions.
The study, which was published in the journal Hypertension, involved an estimated 7,000 participants from six Brazilian cities, all of whom were aged 59 on an average during the study’s launch.
Blood pressure history was initially noted and all underwent two testing periods -2008/2010 and again in 2012/2014- where changes in memory, language skills, concentration, attention, motor speed and mental “flexibility” were repeatedly assessed.
Results indicated that the middle-aged and senior participants, whose blood pressure levels were found “high”, exhibited some form of accelerated decrease in thinking skills as well as memory, unlike those who reported normal blood pressure readings.
But those who managed to reduce their blood pressure by taking meds or following healthy habits reported significantly slower impairment in thinking skills than those who had not.
“Prevention of high blood pressure is always preferred, but taking steps to address the issue once it takes hold can “avoid further damaging the cognitive function,” suggested Barreto.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow of the University of California, Los Angeles, however warned that there may be a limit to how much brain health can be preserved from reducing blood pressure.
“Randomized clinical trials of systolic blood pressure reductions have produced mixed findings on whether lowering blood pressure can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment,” he stressed.
In fact, a recent study concluded that adults who managed their systolic high blood pressure did not see their dementia risk drop compared to those whose even reached a bp reading of 139.
In the meantime, Fonarow advised that controlling your blood pressure is always a smart move because it has been proven to lower risks of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and premature cardiovascular death.