Blood pressure normally dips at night. But blood pressure that remains at its daytime rate or rises is linked to brain changes associated with cognitive function, according to a new study.

This “reverse dipping” during the night is more common in people with high blood pressure, a known risk factor for cognitive decline. Based on brain scans, investigators found that adults with both problems had over twice the amount of brain damage signs common to memory loss as their peers whose blood pressure dropped at night. These study participants also scored lower on memory tests, reported Adam M. Brickman, Ph.D., of Columbia University. 

The results add to mounting evidence that vascular risk factors contribute to memory problems, he said. “They also point to the potential impact of preventing high blood pressure through efforts such as maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and having a healthy diet.”

The study observed participants at one point in time, not long term, and did not prove cause, the researchers said.

Full findings were published Wednesday in the online issue of Neurology.