Women who have high blood pressure in middle age have a greater risk of developing dementia as they age, according to American research.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health have found that high blood pressure increases white matter abnormalities in the brain, increasing susceptibility to dementia.
“Proper control of blood pressure, which remains generally poor, may be very important to prevent dementia as women age,” said professor of epidemiology Dr Lewis Kuller.
As part of the longitudinal Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), 1,424 women aged 65 and older had their blood pressure measured, in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging (MR) of the brain, over eight years.
Women who had high blood pressure at the start of the study had more white matter lesions on the MRI scans at the conclusion.
“Women should be encouraged to control high blood pressure when they are young or in middle age in order to prevent serious problems later on,” said Dr Kuller.
“Prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and subsequent vascular disease in the brain may represent the best current preventive therapy for dementia.”
The research was funded by grants from the (US) National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the US Department of Health and Human Services.