Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is There A Link Between Hypertension and Memory?

People with a reading of 140/90 and above are said to have hypertension, or commonly known as high blood pressure. The upper reading of 140 is called systolic blood pressure and the bottom reading of 90 is known as diastolic blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 1 in every 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. As there are no symptoms, many people who are hypertensive for years without even knowing it. If high blood pressure is not controlled appropriately, it might eventually lead to other medical complications including kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

In a paper published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham on August 25, 2009 in the journal Neurology, high blood pressure was said to affect human’s memory.

The study, funded by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, found that people as young as 45 years old with high blood pressure are more likely to have memory problems. According to the study, people with high diastolic blood pressure (high readings on the bottom number of the blood pressure reading) were more likely than those with normal readings to have memory and thinking troubles known as cognitive impairment.

Nearly 20,000 people who were 45 years old and above and had never had a stroke or mini-stroke were involved in the largest study to look at the link between high blood pressure and memory problems. There were more than 7 percent had memory troubles and nearly half were taking medication for high blood pressure. People with stroke were excluded because stroke has already been known as a common cause of memory problems.

After adjusting for other factors that can mar thinking like age, diabetes, education, exercise level, high cholesterol and smoking status, it was found that for every 10 points increase in the diastolic blood pressure reading, the chances that a person could have cognitive problems were raised by 7 percent.

The findings might suggest that higher blood pressure might be a risk factor for cognitive impairment, but further studies to understand further the cause-and-effect relationships are still necessary.

Meanwhile, the researchers believed it is possible to prevent cognitive impairment by preventing or treating high blood pressure as early as possible.

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