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High Blood Pressure In Later Life Reduces Risk Of Dementia

Update Date: Jan 19, 2017 06:52 PM EST

There are instances that having high blood pressure might benefit health. For instance, a new study says that developing high blood pressure in very old age may provide some protection for dementia.

High blood pressure is generally considered to be a risk factor for developing dementia when it starts in middle age. It also raises one's risk of heart attack and stroke. The new study, however, challenges this belief. Instead, it suggests that hypertension may lower the risk, especially if the onset is later in life.

High Blood Pressure May Boost Brain Circulation

"Hypertension in the very old is not detrimental to mental health," Maria Corrada, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at the University of California, Irvine, said as reported by WebMD.

She said that there are many factors that help explain the apparent link between late-life high blood pressure, which starts in the eighth or ninth decade of life and lower dementia risk. For example, as people grows older, blood pressure may need to increase in order for the blood to keep flowing to the brain. The brain needs ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients for normal functioning.

"It's a matter of creating enough pressure to get blood to oxygenate the brain adequately," Corrada added.

Link Between Hypertension And Dementia

The investigators of the study, published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, assessed 559 patients, aged 90 years old and above, from a long-term longitudinal study, the 90+ Study. At the start of the study, the participants did not have dementia.

The team followed them for about 2.8 years, examining them every 6 months to check if they developed dementia. Aside from the assessment, their neurological and neuropsychological statuses were also taken into consideration. Their blood pressure was also measured at the start of the study.

The dementia risk was lowest among those with hypertension at age 90 or above.

"These new findings suggest some risk factors for dementia may change over the course of our lives," Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer's Association chief science officer, said as reported by Medical News Today.

"We have seen similar results in past studies comparing body mass in older adults with dementia risk," she added.

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