Shot of a doctor checking a senior patient's blood pressure in her office

Researchers already know that hypertension is the most prevalent risk factor for dementia. But the link between both isn’t so clear for people who develop hypertension later in life. A new report found antihypertensive medication use was linked to a lower dementia risk later in life compared to people who didn’t treat their hypertension. And people who treated their hypertension had the same risk of dementia as healthy people their age without hypertension. 

The conclusions came from a meta-analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open  including data from 34,519 older adults in 17 studies. The mean age of the people was 72.5 years old, and 58.4% were female. There was a mean follow-up time of 4.3 years. Data came from 16 countries including the US.

In the main analysis of 14 studies, people who didn’t treat hypertension had a 42% increased risk of dementia compared to healthy controls and a 26% increased risk for dementia compared to people who treated their hypertension. 

“For participants with treated hypertension, our study found that throughout late life, there was no increased risk of dementia compared with healthy controls, and this result was not significantly altered by age, sex, or race,” the authors wrote. 

Other studies have suggested that hypertension was linked to a greater dementia risk in Black populations and in males, but the current study didn’t find those differences between racial or sex groups. The new study found that hypertension was greater in Black populations, but its link to dementia risk wasn’t significantly different, they added.

They pointed out that their findings are in line with a meta-analysis of 71,994 people that didn’t find a link between late-life hypertension and dementia.

As a result of their findings, the authors say that reducing dementia risk may be cited as a goal for starting antihypertensive treatment later in life.