News for Durham: High Blood Pressure is Linked to Dementia

October 27, 2016

A recent study has found that high blood pressure is linked to dementia especially in middle age. A review by the American Heart Association found that high blood pressure disrupts the structure and function of cerebral blood vessels. High blood pressure can lead to damage of the white matter in parts of the brain that are critical for cognitive function. This damage can promote dementia and cause Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists also saw strong evidence of a negative effect of mid-life high blood pressure on brain function in later years.

Vascular dementia is caused by a reduction of blood flow to the brain caused by stroke or damage to small blood vessels and is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Vascular dementia causes memory loss, communication problems and personality changes. Often there are years between treating a patient with high blood pressure medication at middle age until cognitive issues arise later in life. Treating high blood pressure does reduce the risk of heart attacks, congestive heart failure and stroke. However, we do need some longer term studies to see if treating high blood pressure in middle age will decrease cognitive impairment later in life.

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