Dangers of high blood pressure? One recent study found that at any age, no matter how long you have it, high blood pressure may speed cognitive decline.

Memory, concentration and other cognitive functions decline faster among middle-aged and older adults who have high blood pressure than those who do not. Even seemingly slight blood pressure elevation during middle and older age is linked to a faster decline in cognition.

High blood pressure appears to accelerate a decline in cognitive performance in middle-aged and older adults, according to new research published today in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal.


Dangers of High Blood Pressure


Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. Having high blood pressure is a risk factor for cognitive decline. That includes such things as memory, verbal fluency, attention and concentration.

Blood pressure of 120 mmHg — 129 mmHg systolic (the top number in a reading) or higher is considered elevated. Systolic pressure above 130 mmHg, or diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 80 mmHg or higher is considered hypertension.
There are more dangers to high blood pressure than previously realized. The results of a recent study highlight more dangers of high blood pressure.

According to study author Sandhi M. Barreto, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil:

• “We initially anticipated that the negative effects of hypertension on cognitive function would be more critical when hypertension started at a younger age.
• However, our results show similar accelerated cognitive performance decline whether hypertension started in middle age or at older ages.

• We also found that effectively treating high blood pressure at any age in adulthood could reduce or prevent this acceleration.

• Collectively, the findings suggest hypertension needs to be prevented, diagnosed and effectively treated in adults of any age to preserve cognitive function.”

High Blood Pressure Study

• The study analyzed findings from an existing study that included blood pressure and cognitive health information for more than 7,000 adults in Brazil.

• The average age of the participants was about 59 years old at the study’s start.

• The study participants were followed for an average of nearly 4 years.

• Testing included analysis of memory, verbal fluency and executive function, which includes attention, concentration and other factors associated with thinking and reasoning.


High Blood Pressure Study Conclusions

The study reached the following conclusions:

Systolic blood pressure between 121 and 139 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure between 81 and 89 mmHg with no antihypertensive medication use was associated with accelerated cognitive performance decline among middle-aged and older individuals.

• The speed of decline in cognition happened regardless of hypertension duration, meaning high blood pressure for any length of time, even a short duration, might impact a person’s speed of cognitive decline.

• Adults with uncontrolled hypertension tended to experience notably faster declines in memory and global cognitive function than adults who had controlled hypertension.


The study’s results highlight the importance of diagnosing and controlling hypertension in patients of any age to prevent or slow down cognitive decline. They also reinforce the need to maintain lower blood pressure levels throughout life, since even prehypertension levels were associated with cognitive decline.”

Click here to read about the dangers of high blood pressure.