September 3, 2009 / 3:59 PM / 10 years ago

High blood pressure linked to memory woes: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - High blood pressure can make it hard for middle-aged adults to think clearly and remember things, according to new study.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that people in their mid-40s and older with high diastolic blood pressure — the bottom number of a blood pressure reading — were more likely to have problems with memory and thinking skills than other people.

“It’s possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia,” Dr. Georgios Tsivgoulis, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

The findings, reported in the journal Neurology, are based on data from 19,836 people age 45 and older who had never had a stroke or mini-stroke. More than seven percent had cognitive problems and nearly 50 percent were taking medication for high blood pressure.

For every 10-point increase in the diastolic blood pressure reading, the likelihood of a person having cognitive problems was seven percent higher, the researchers found.

The results held up after adjusting for other factors that could affect brain function, such as age, smoking status, exercise level, education, diabetes or high cholesterol.

Tsivgoulis and his team said high diastolic blood pressure leads to weakening of small arteries in the brain, which can result in the development of small areas of brain damage.

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