A Little Hypertension May Sharpen Seniors' Thinking Skills

Study suggests it actually improves cognition in elderly

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FRIDAY, Nov. 7, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Mild hypertension may actually protect the cognitive ability of people after age 70, claims an Israeli study.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev studied 385 people -- 36 did not have high blood pressure, 74 were normalized hypertensives, 103 were untreated hypertensives, and 172 were treated but uncontrolled hypertensives.

All the participants (mean age 76.5 years) were given cognitive tests that measured memory, concentration, visual retention, verbal fluency and the mini-mental state examination (MMSE). Of the five cognitive tests, only verbal fluency was not related to hypertension status.

"After adjusting for confounding variables, treated but uncontrolled hypertensives performed significantly better than at least one of the other groups, and normotensives performed poorest," the authors write.

"It is worth noting that normalized hypertensives generally performed better than normotensives, but the differences were not statistically significant," the authors write.

Dr. Michael A. Weber, an editor of the American Journal of Hypertension, which published the findings, says this study counters conventional medical science beliefs that the association between blood pressure and different dimensions of cognition take on different patterns.

"The results of this Israeli study could present a dilemma for physicians to choose between cardiovascular health and cognitive health in treating elderly people with high blood pressure," Weber says in a prepared statement.

"Further study is required to weight the proven longevity benefits of blood pressure control with the new finding of cognitive protection. Until further evidence comes along, it would be most prudent for clinicians to achieve currently recommended treatment goals in their patients," Weber says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about hypertension.

SOURCE: American Journal of Hypertension, news release, October 2003

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