High blood pressure greatly increases risk of dementia among women in their forties, new study finds

A new study which was published in Neurology – the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology – revealed that women with high blood pressure in their forties have a 73 percent higher risk of dementia.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in California followed the lives of 7,238 people from 1964 to 1973 and had their blood pressure monitored when they were the average age of 33, and then again when they were an average age of 44 in the mid-1970s. Around 22 percent of the people who were studied had high blood pressure in their 30s; this was observed to be 31 percent of men and 14 percent of women. In their 40s, 22 percent of the participants had high blood pressure (25 percent of men and 18 percent of women).

The researchers got back in touch with the 5,646 patients who were still alive by the time the researchers had another experiment. They looked at the statistics to know which ones had been diagnosed with dementia, which hadn’t been diagnosed with dementia, and observed them again for another 15 years. After 15 years have passed, the researchers found out that 532 people were diagnosed with dementia.

The results showed that high blood pressure during early adulthood or during their 30s did not contribute to the risks of the onset of dementia.

“Previous research has shown links between hypertension and dementia among both sexes so this work suggesting a link in women but not men is surprising,” said United Kingdom-based Alzheimer’s Society director of research Dr. Doug Brown. (Related: High Blood Pressure Linked to Mental Decline for Young and Old.)

“It is a well-established fact that high blood pressure in mid-life can increase our chances of developing dementia in later life. The younger age of people involved in this study compared to previous ones may partly explain the difference, but as this new research goes against the grain we need to see more studies to fully understand possible sex differences in blood pressure and dementia risk,” Dr. Brown added.

For her part, study author Rachel Whitmer, who is a Ph.D. scholar at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, said: “High blood pressure in mid-life is a known risk factor for dementia, but these results may help us better understand when this association starts, how changes in blood pressure affect the risk of dementia and what the differences are between men and women.”

Whitmer added that more research is needed to determine possible connections between sex and brain aging.

Read more stories on other risk factors for dementia at Mind.news.

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