A new study in the August 25, 2009 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, tells of the importance of reducing high bloodpressure and links high blood pressure to loss of cognitive function in those over 45 years old.
Every 10-point increase in diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure increased the odds of having an impairment in thinking by 7% – even after adjusting for other factors (age, smoking status, exercise, education, diabetes or high cholesterol) that might affect cognitive skills. No one knows why this reading, taken when the heart is resting, is connected to mental clarity.
“One idea is that diastolic pressure is tightly tied to small blood vessel disease and perfusion pressure,” explains George Howard, chairman of the department of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Perfusion pressure is defined as the force by which blood spreads through the blood vessels of the brain. “Another idea is that people with high systolic pressure tend to die. Once they are dead, they cannot be part of our study.”
Though the increase in cognitive problems might seem small at seven percent, the large numbers in our aging population make this a figure to be respected.
High blood pressure is a reading equal to, or higher, than 140/90. It is believed that about one in three U.S. adults currently have high blood pressure – but with no symptoms nearly a third who have it don’t even know it. The only way to be sure is to have your blood pressure checked, at your doctor’s office or a local pharmacy.
This new study involved just about 20,000 subjects across the country that took part in The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study.
The work is attempting to uncover why blacks and Southerners are more likely to have a stroke than other Americans. None of the subjects in this research had ever had a stroke, though 49.6% were taking drugs for high blood pressure; another 7.6% had cognitive issues. The ongoing research has been following these subjects, all over 45, for several years.
“The REGARDS study is one of the largest population-based studies of risk factors for stroke. These latest data suggest that higher blood pressure may be a risk factor for cognitive decline, but further studies will be necessary to understand the cause-effect relationship,” explains Walter J. Koroshetz, MD, deputy director of NINDS and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.
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High Blood Pressure Linked To Reduced Mental Function Continued…
This latest research supports a number of previous studies that show high blood pressure has an impact on thinking. And since blood pressure problems often start in mid-life, experts are starting to think that interventions for hypertension aimed at those under 60 might help stop the level of cognitive decline as people age.
Today the National Institutes of Health is organizing a large clinical trial to see if aggressive treatment of blood pressure can also decrease other health outcomes, including mental decline.
More and more work is pointing to the fact that what we do at midlife may well impact the health of both brain and body as the years pass, and the importance of reducing high blood pressure. Eating right and staying active are both solid strategies for keeping your weight under control and lowering your risk for cognitive decline in later years.
To your good health,
Daily Health Bulletin Editor
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