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High Blood Pressure Speeds Alzheimer’s

Blood PressureResearchers have discovered high blood pressure or a form of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation may accelerate cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

However, the findings also suggest that treating these conditions may also slow memory loss in people with AD.

The Johns Hopkins study is to be published in the Nov. 6, 2007, issue of Neurology.

While current medications for Alzheimer’s disease are effective for some patients in slowing the rate of AD progression, many patients do not benefit from the treatments or cannot tolerate them, says lead researcher Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“The possibility that specific vascular conditions may affect how fast a person with AD declines,” Mielke says, “provides new opportunities for slowing the rate of AD progression. Treatments for atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure are relatively inexpensive and safe and may reduce memory decline in AD patients with these conditions.”

The study examined 135 men and women over 65 who were newly diagnosed with AD. All had undergone annual memory tests for an average of three years.

Results showed that 10 with high blood pressure (systolic pressure over 160) at the time of AD diagnosis showed a rate of memory loss roughly 100 percent faster than those with normal blood pressure.

In addition, 10 with atrial fibrillation at the time of the diagnosis showed a rate of memory decline that was 75 percent faster than those with normal heartbeats.

The study participants were part of the Cache County Study on Memory Health and Aging, which has been following a group of 5,092 people 65 or older living in Cache County, Utah, since 1995.

“What makes this group and study unique is that we have been following these participants in the community for over a decade, even before they were first diagnosed with AD, so we know a good deal about their medical history,” says Mielke.

“Studies that enroll AD patients only from clinics may miss key factors, such as date of onset and history of cardiovascular disease and treatment.”

Mielke says she is currently working on similar studies using larger sample sizes to better understand the potential role that vascular factors play before AD diagnosis and their role over the course of the disease’s progression.

Mielke also recently contributed to a study by Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul Rosenberg, M.D., that examined drugs that modify high blood pressure and high cholesterol, such as beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium-channel blockers and statins, and their effects on cognitive and functional decline. Results from that study are expected to be released this year.

Source: Johns Hopkins

High Blood Pressure Speeds Alzheimer’s

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). High Blood Pressure Speeds Alzheimer’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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