Image of Sandhi Maria Barreto, Ph.D.
Sandhi Maria Barreto, Ph.D.

High blood pressure is tied to lower global cognitive and memory test scores, long-term study findings show.

Investigators analyzed memory tests and other health data among 7,063 participants in a Brazilian health study. Participants diagnosed with hypertension at age 55 and older were more likely to have reduced cognitive function when compared to peers without high blood pressure, according to lead author Sandhi Maria Barreto, Ph.D.

Cognitive performance was measured in two visits between 2008 and 2014. The length of time a participant had a diagnosis of hypertension did not appear to raise the odds of decline, the researchers reported. But individuals who received treatment to control blood pressure at the study’s start had less decline in both global cognitive and memory test scores than their peers who did not receive treatment at that time.

Distinct capabilities were affected by certain diagnoses. The study also found that people younger than 55 years with hypertension had lower memory test scores, while the older cohort struggled more with global cognitive and memory test scores.

“Our findings suggest that both lower and older age of hypertension, but not duration of diagnosis, were associated with cognitive decline in different abilities,” wrote Barreto, a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and her colleagues. “In addition to hypertension, prehypertension and [blood] pressure control might be critical for the preservation of cognitive function,” they concluded.

Full findings were published in the journal Hypertension.