High blood pressure increases risk of dementia in over-55s, American Heart Association warns

blood pressure monitor
(Image credit: Annsky)

High blood pressure and cognitive decline are two common conditions associated with ageing – but they could be more closely linked than previously thought. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) has warned that adults aged 55 or over with untreated high blood pressure are at greater risk of experiencing an accelerated decline in their mental facilities, specifically memory and language skills.

This in turn presents an increased risk of dementia, due to the the way high blood pressure impacts on the blood vessels in the human brain.

The findings were presented at the AHA's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions and are based on data from some 11,000 adults collected between 2011 and 2015.

Fortunately, undertaking treatment for high blood pressure appears to level the playing field for older adults.

Knowledge is power

According to the AHA, those who receive treatment for high blood pressure  experience the same rate of cognitive decline as those who do not have high blood pressure – and a much slower rate of regression than those who do not receive treatment.

The biggest worry, the non-profit says, is the fact that many older adults are unaware they have high blood pressure. 

“We think efforts should be made to expand high blood pressure screenings, especially for at-risk populations, because so many people are not aware that they have high blood pressure that should be treated," commented Shumin Rui, a biostatistician at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

The report corroborates previous research linking high blood pressure with Alzheimer’s disease, including a notable 2018 study by the American Academy of Neurology.

So while some of the best DNA testing kits can help curious people identify a genetic predisposition toward certain diseases – and the best medical alert smartwatches include features like heart-rate monitoring – it seems there's no substitute for proper health care when it comes to addressing high blood pressure.

Treatment can be pricey, though, so you may want to turn to one of the best health insurance providers to ensure you're financially covered, should the need arise.

Aging at Home series:

James Laird

A technology journalist with nearly 10 years of experience, James is the former News and Features Editor at Trusted Reviews, and has also served as regional Editor of Lifehacker. His articles have been spotted on sites ranging from The Sun to InStyle, but his true love is shiny things and the story behind them. An avid golfer in his spare time, you'll also regularly catch him hovering over the BBQ listening to Pearl Jam.