50-year-olds with Raised Blood Pressure at Risk of Dementia
Evidence suggests that even slightly raised blood pressure in 50-year-olds could increase the risk of dementia later in life.
A recent study has found that people aged 50 with blood pressure raised above the recommended level, but still below the threshold commonly used to diagnose high blood pressure, have an increased risk of developing dementia when they get older.
The link between high blood pressure and dementia has been established for some time. It is thought to be related to the increased pressure causing bleeding and damage to the brain. However, researchers disagree on the blood pressure level that creates this risk and the age at which it begins.
In this study, researchers from University College London and the Université Paris-Saclay in France examined how raised blood pressure at different ages (50, 60 and 70 years) affects the chances of getting dementia.
The researchers looked at data from 8,639 people who took part in a long-running study of British civil servants and had their blood pressure measured four times between 1985 and 2003. They used electronic health records to establish that 385 (4.5%) of these people had developed dementia by the end of March 2017, at an average age of 75.
Data analysis revealed that people with a systolic blood pressure of 130 millimetres of mercury (mmHg) or more at the age of 50 had a 45% greater risk of developing dementia than those with a lower systolic blood pressure at the same age. But having raised blood pressure at age 60 or 70 did not appear to increase the risk of dementia.
Results of the study, published in the European Heart Journal, suggest that high blood pressure in mid-life, but not later life, is linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Importantly, the results indicate that slightly raised systolic blood pressure, even if it is not as high as the 140 mmHg level recommended to diagnose high blood pressure, can put middle-aged people at an increased risk of dementia.
Professor Archana Singh-Manoux, who led the research, explained: “Our work confirms the detrimental effects of midlife hypertension for risk of dementia, as suggested by previous research. It also suggests that at age 50, the risk of dementia may be increased in people who have raised levels of systolic blood pressure below the threshold commonly used to treat hypertension.”
Larger studies are now needed to confirm these findings and determine whether effective management of raised blood pressure in middle age might decrease dementia in later life.
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