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Blood pressure link to dementia risk

Wednesday June 13th, 2018

New findings from an ongoing study have shown a link between high systolic blood pressure and increased risk of dementia, below the conventional threshold used to define hypertension.

The findings, published in the European Heart Journal today (13 June), are based on information from 8,639 men and women the Whitehall II study of civil servants.

Dr Jessica Abell of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris, France (INSERM) and colleagues looked at the links between diastolic and systolic blood pressure at age 50, 60, and 70 years, and rates of dementia. They were particularly interested in whether cardiovascular disease affects these links.

Analysis showed that systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg or over at age 50 - but not at age 60 or 70 - was associated with increased risk of dementia.

The researchers write: "Those who had blood pressure that was higher than normal but still below the threshold commonly used when deciding to treat the condition, were at increased risk of developing dementia in later life."

Dr Abell said: "Previous research has not been able to test the link between raised blood pressure and dementia directly by examining the timing in sufficient detail.

"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'".

The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the European Society of Cardiology both give a threshold of 140/90 mmHg for hypertension.

The team suggest that hypertension may be linked to dementia via silent or mini strokes, damage to the brain's white matter, and restricted blood supply to the brain.

Abell, J. et al. Association between systolic blood pressure and dementia in the Whitehall II cohort study: role of age, duration and threshold used to define hypertension. European Heart Journal 13 June 2018 doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehy288

https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehy288

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe | Heart Health

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