Is Senility Preventable? High Blood Pressure Could Mean Higher Risk Of Dementia

March 19, 1998

DALLAS, March 20 -- Just because you're getting older doesn't mean senility is inevitable. In fact, a Swedish study published in this month's Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that controlling blood pressure may help prevent the memory loss associated with aging.

In a 20-year study of 999 Swedish men scientists found a relationship between those who had high blood pressure in their 50s and brain dysfunction in their older years. The connection was particularly strong in those men not receiving treatment for their high blood pressure.

A common form of dementia, a condition of deteriorated mentality usually striking the elderly, is vascular dementia. It results when blood vessels in the brain are damaged. Considering this, the researchers looked to see if it were possible to reverse this type of dementia before it began.

"Our results support the hypothesis that hypertension can lead to cognitive impairment," says Lena Kilander, M.D., Ph.D., in the department of clinical neurosciences at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. "Because a linkage has been established, it is urgent to investigate whether further decline can be postponed by a more intensive preventive treatment."

The men in this particular study were followed as part of another larger investigation that began in the 1970s in Uppsala, Sweden. The current journal report is based on research in which the men took two tests designed to measure thinking ability and motor skills. Those results were then measured against blood pressure readings obtained 20 years ago.

Researchers found that thinking ability was highest in the men with the lowest blood pressure measurement -- defined as a diastolic blood pressure (DBP) less than 70 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) -- and lowest in men with a DBP greater than 105 mm/Hg. Diastolic is the "lower" number of a blood pressure reading.

Co-authors are Hakan Nyman, Ph.D; Merike Boberg, M.D., Ph.D; Lennart Hansson, M.D., Ph.D.; Hans Lithell, M.D., Ph.D.
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NR 98-4874 (Hyper/Kilander)

Media advisory: Dr. Kilander can be reached by calling 46-18-177000 or fax 46-18-177 976. (Please do not publish numbers.)
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American Heart Association

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