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Hypertension Effects Brain Power

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Hypertension Effects Brain Power

A new study suggests that Hypertension maybe linked to a decline in cognitive abilities…

New research suggests that sudden surges in blood pressure could hinder the thinking power of those with chronic hypertension.

Jason Allaire, assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and lead researcher of the study concluded:

“If you have high blood pressure, on days when your blood pressure spikes higher than normal, cognitive ability is worse than normal.”

It is still unknown exactly why these spikes in high blood pressure can cause a decline in cognitive abilities. The high blood pressure could itself be responsible, or it could simply be a marker for other factors such as stress, also known to hinder logical thinking.

“This finding suggests that if you have high blood pressure that is not controlled, your cognitive abilities are going to decline faster as you get older,” Allaire said.

The study group consisted of 36 adults aged between 60 and 87 years old. Over a period of 60 days the participants were given verbal learning tests, letter and number comparison tests, and other cognitive exams twice a day. Researchers also measured the participants’ ongoing blood pressures.

The results showed that people with chronic high blood pressure tended to do poorly in cognitive tests when their blood pressure spiked above normal.

However those with normal blood pressure experienced no change, even on days when their blood pressure rose to levels considered high.

It is possible that chronic high blood pressure could cause problems with cognition, Allaire said, or that spikes in blood pressure could cause changes in the brain that affect thinking.

The results could also indicate that the stress behind the sudden surge in pressure might cause changes in cognitive function.

“So, blood pressure spiking is a marker, and it is actually the stress that’s causing worse cognitive ability,”

In light of the recent findings, many remain skeptical of a direct hypertension-thinking link, reasoning that stress may be behind the change in brains functionality. Dr. Byron Lee, an assistant clinical professor of cardiology at the University of California San Francisco, said:

“This paper does not convince me that lowering blood pressure would improve cognition…
“My interpretation of the data is that lowering stress, which will also lower blood pressure, leads to better mental performance. Nevertheless, we already have plenty of health reasons to keep blood pressure low.”

Dr. Sarwat Chaudhry, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, is hoping that more study will be conducted:

“Whether daily variations in blood pressure within individuals are associated with reasoning abilities will need to be confirmed in larger studies that also examine the role of emotional stress in causing elevations in blood pressure, and perhaps affecting intellectual performance,”

The report is published in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

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