Can Getting Treatment for High Blood Pressure Slow Down Cognitive Decline?

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If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, it’s probably providing a lot more benefit than you thought.

And if you’re not having your blood pressure checked regularly and receiving treatment, if necessary, you should start now.

New research shows that, while high blood pressure appears to increase cognitive decline among middle-aged and older adults, treating high blood pressure may slow down the process.

The preliminary research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions a few days ago.

The findings are important, suggest the researchers, because high blood pressure and cognitive decline are two of the most common conditions associated with aging.

Researchers from Columbia University analyzed data collected on nearly 11,000 adults from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) between 2011-2015, to assess how high blood pressure and its treatment may influence cognitive decline.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Overall cognition scores declined over the four-year study
  • Participants ages 55 and older who had high blood pressure showed a more rapid rate of cognitive decline compared with participants who were being treated for high blood pressure and those who did not have high blood pressure
  • The rate of cognitive decline was similar between those receiving high blood pressure treatment and those who did not have high blood pressure
  • The study did not evaluate why or how high blood pressure treatments may have contributed to slower cognitive decline or if some treatments were more effective than others.

“We think efforts should be made to expand high blood pressure screenings, especially for at-risk populations, because so many people are not aware that they have high blood pressure that should be treated,” said study author Shumin Rui.

“This study focused on middle-aged and older adults in China, however, we believe our results could apply to populations elsewhere as well. We need to better understand how high blood pressure treatments may protect against cognitive decline and look at how high blood pressure and cognitive decline are occurring together.”


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