Hypertension is a Biomarker for Dementia Development

WOMEN aged between 40 and 50 years suffering from hypertension have a much greater risk of developing dementia in later life, compared to men of a similar age with hypertension as well as other women aged 40–50 years who have a blood pressure within normal bounds, according to new research.

It is estimated that around 75 million adults in the USA have hypertension and a large number of studies have investigated the link between high blood pressure and neurodegeneration. New research, co-authored by Dr Rachel A. Whitmer, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, California, USA, has identified additional early biomarkers, namely age and sex, that predict the development of dementia in patients with hypertension.

The research team studied a total of 7,238 men and women from the northern Californian, Kaiser Permanente healthcare system. The blood pressure of these individuals was measured between the years 1964 and 1973, when the average age of the patients was 33 years, and a follow-up measurement was taken between 1978 and 1985, when the patients had an average age of 44 years. These original measurements showed that men were much more likely to suffer from hypertension than women (approximately 31% and 25% versus 14% and 18%, respectively); however, dementia assessment between 1996 and 2015 highlighted serious concerns.

Of the original 7,238 study patients, 5,646 undertook a dementia assessment and 532 individuals were diagnosed with dementia. Comparing the dementia rates to the blood pressure measurements taken, the researchers discovered that the dementia risk in women who suffered from hypertension during their 40s was 73% higher than women who maintained a normal blood pressure during their 30s and 40s. On the other hand, men suffering from hypertension in their 30s and 40s showed no such correlation with dementia development. The authors stated: “Sex differences in the timing of dementia risk factors have important implications for brain health and hypertension management.”

In conclusion, the authors suggested that hypertension is a dementia risk factor for women aged 40–50, but there is no significant risk in men. The results of this study are paramount and have identified the need for intervention in hypertensive women to prevent the development of dementia. In his concluding remarks, Dr Whitmer highlighted the need for further studies to identify the “sex-specific pathways through which the elevated blood pressure accelerates brain aging.”

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