A new study has found a connection between having high blood pressure in your 50s and an increased risk of dementia later in life.
Using data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine measured blood pressure from 378 FHS participants when they were between 50 and 60 years old, and then tested their cognitive performance approximately 30 years later when they were 80 years or older.
The researchers found that participants with high blood pressure at midlife scored more poorly on tests of attention and executive function later in life.
“Decline in cognition is often considered an inevitable consequence of aging, and age is the single biggest risk factor for dementia, but perhaps managing factors that impact brain aging, such as blood pressure, will help increase brain health and reduce the risk for dementia,” said corresponding author Rhoda Au, Ph.D., a professor of neurology at the university.
According to the researchers, if your blood pressure is not within normal range when you are younger, you should speak to your doctor and develop a plan to reduce it to normal levels. Strategies might include exercise, weight loss, and medication, they advise.
“Midlife health matters,” Au added. “The pathway to one’s older years is through the younger years and taking care of your health while you are younger may help you better preserve your cognitive health when you are older.”
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.