The diagnosis of high blood pressure late in life may now be considered good news for a patient, as a study has found that those with the highest blood pressure readings were least likely to be afflicted with dementia.
While a higher reading during middle age is believed to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the effect seems to be the opposite in later life.
The study conducted at the University of California in Irvine, explored the relationship between the risk of dementia, the age at which it was diagnosed, as well as blood pressure readings of those in the over 90s category.
Every six months, the researchers followed 625 pensioners, for up to 10 years. The average age of the participants was 93 and two thirds were women. From the outset of the study, participants did not have dementia.
The study found that patients who developed high blood pressure between the ages of 80 and 89 had a significantly lower risk of developing dementia, in comparison to those with a normal blood pressure reading. In addition, those who were found to have developed the condition in their 90s, had an even lower risk of getting the disease.
The findings were the same, regardless of whether participants were taking medications to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) or not.
Associate Professor from the department of neurology explains: “In our study, high blood pressure is not a risk factor for dementia in the oldest old, but just the opposite”.
“From observing a group of very old people we now have some evidence that developing high blood pressure at a late age may be helpful in terms of maintaining intact thinking abilities”.
The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and while authors say that there is emerging evidence that high blood pressure may protect against dementia in people aged 90 and over, they are “absolutely not recommending that high blood pressure not be treated among the elderly”.