When scientists try to figure out who is predisposed to dementia, they often finger hypertension. There appears to be a link between midlife high blood pressure and dementia (Deckers et al, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, March, 2015; Ashby-Mitchell et al, Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, Feb. 17, 2017).
Is There a Link Between Blood Pressure and Dementia in Older People?
Any such connection in the elderly is more complicated, however. Some evidence links low rather than high blood pressure to cognitive decline.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015 reported on 172 elderly Italian patients attending memory clinics. People whose systolic blood pressure was below 128 appeared to have greater cognitive impairment.
More recently, a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia tracked very old members of a California retirement community. Those who developed mild to moderate hypertension in their 80s were 42 percent less likely to experience dementia in their 90s.
Treat High Blood Pressure in the Very Elderly with Care:
Based on these new studies, doctors may want to exercise caution about how aggressively they treat hypertension in their oldest patients. The link between blood pressure and dementia may be more complicated than we previously imagined.