High Blood Pressure at Age 50 Tied to Dementia Risk

Even levels that do not usually require medication can increase the risk.

Elevated blood pressure at age 50 is linked to an increased risk for dementia in later years, a new study reports.

The research, published in the European Heart Journal, found that systolic blood pressure (the top number) as low as 130 increased the risk, even though 140 is the usual level at which treatment with blood pressure medication is recommended.

The scientists measured blood pressure in 8,639 men and women in 1985, when they were age 35 to 55, and then again in 1991, 1997 and 2003 over the course of a long-term health study.

Through March, 2017, there were 385 cases of dementia. After controlling for many risk factors, including stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, they found that a systolic blood pressure at age 50 of 130 or greater was independently associated with a 38 percent increased risk of dementia.

“The 140 threshold has been considered beneficial for the heart for a long time, but it might not work for the brain,” said the senior author, Archana Singh-Manoux, a research professor at Inserm, the French health research institute. “The problem with hypertension is that people don’t take their meds because they have no symptoms. I would encourage people to use their hypertensive medications.”