High Blood Pressure Linked to Common Form of Dementia

Emerging research suggests high blood pressure could significantly raise the risk of developing vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia.

Researchers from the George Institute for Global Health analyzed the medical records of more than four million people. Investigators discovered heightened blood pressure was associated with a 62 percent higher risk of vascular dementia between the ages of 30-50.

Vascular dementia affects around 9.3 million people globally and is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels. The reduced blood flow to the brain over time raises the risk of a blood vessel becoming blocked or bursting.

Increased blood pressure is a known risk factor for stroke and cardiovascular disease, but until now studies were conflicting over the risks for vascular dementia; several even indicated that low blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Lead author Professor Kazem Rahimi said, “Vascular dementia rates are increasing all over the world and will pose a significant economic and social burden in both developed and developing countries. So these results are particularly important.

“We already know that high blood pressure can raise the risk of stroke and heart attack. Our research has shown that high blood pressure is also associated with a significantly higher risk of vascular dementia.”

The team at The George Institute analyzed the medical records of 4.28 million people. The study had several key findings:

  • over a seven-year period 11,114 people went on to develop vascular dementia;
  • patients aged 30-50 who had high blood pressure had a 62 percent higher risk of vascular dementia, and a 26 percent higher risk at age 51-70;
  • high blood pressure was still a risk factor even after adjusting for the presence of stroke, the leading cause of vascular dementia.

Rahimi, deputy director of The George Institute UK, said, “Our results suggest that lowering blood pressure, either by exercise, diet or blood pressure lowering drugs, could reduce the risk of vascular dementia.”

Source: George Institute for Global Health/American Heart-Stroke Association