Most of us already know that high blood pressure isn’t good for overall health, but an alarming new study has found it could also be linked to an increased risk of dementia.
People aged 50 who have high blood pressure are at an increased risk of developing dementia in later life, according to an Oxford University Study published in the European Health Journal.
The study, drawn from data from the long-running Whitehall II study of more than 10,000 civil servants, found the risk of dementia was present in participants who didn’t have other heart or blood vessel-related health issues. Paper author Dr Jessica Abell said the findings would help set up guidelines for future patients.
“Previous research has not been able to test the link between raised blood pressure and dementia directly by examining the timing in sufficient detail,” she said in a statement. “In our paper we were able to examine the association at age 50, 60 and 70, and we found different patterns of association. This will have important implications for policy guidelines, which currently only use the generic term ‘midlife’.”
Participants were aged between 35 and 55 in 1985 and had their blood pressure measured throughout their life in 1985, 1991, 1997 and 2003. Researchers discovered 385 of the 8,639 people analysed had developed dementia by 2017. Women made up 32.5 per cent of all cases, while 67.5 per cent were men. People with a blood pressure of more than 130mmHg at the age of 50 had a 45 per cent greater risk of developing dementia. The link wasn’t seen in participants aged between 60 and 70.
Ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, according to the study.
Lead researcher Professor Archana Singh-Manoux said the research discovered high blood pressure in middle-aged people could cause cognitive problems later in life.
“Our analysis suggests that the importance of mid-life hypertension on brain health is due to the duration of exposure, Singh-Manoux said in a statement. “So we see an increased risk for people with raised blood pressure at age 50, but not 60 or 70, because those with hypertension at age 50 are likely to be ‘exposed’ to this risk for longer.”
Dr Abell added that because the research was observational, more would be required and that any concerned patients should speak about their symptoms or worries with a GP or health professional.
“It is important to emphasise that this is observational, population-level research and so these findings do not translate directly into implications for individual patients,” she explained. “Furthermore, there is considerable discussion on the optimal threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that maintaining a healthy blood pressure in middle age is important for both your heart and your brain later in life. Anyone who is concerned about their blood pressure levels should consult their GP.”