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Blood pressure link to dementia

New research reveals that a common condition in midlife will increase your risk of dementia later in life, say UK health experts.

Anyone with slightly raised blood pressure from the age of 50 has a 45 per cent chance of developing dementia in their later years.

The UK Whitehall II study, published in the European Heart Journal, involves ongoing analysis of 8639 people and more than 10,000 civil servants, and was started in 1985.

It shows that 50-year-olds with a systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg – between the ideal blood pressure range (90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg) and the high blood pressure range (140/90mmHg) – have a 45 per cent greater risk of developing dementia at age 75, even if they did not have other heart-related problems.

Increased dementia risk was seen in people aged 50 with higher than normal blood pressure, but not in those aged 60 or 70.

“Previous research has not been able to test the link between raised blood pressure and dementia directly by examining the timing in sufficient detail,” said study author Dr Jessica Abell, of the University College London.

“In our paper, we were able to examine the association at age 50, 60 and 70, and we found different patterns of association.

“This will have important implications for policy guidelines, which currently only use the generic term ‘midlife’.”

The research suggests that the link could be due to damage from “unnoticed” mini strokes, which are linked to high blood pressure.

Dr Abell did note that the findings were from “observational, population-level research” and may “not translate directly into implications for individual patients”.

Do you have higher than normal blood pressure? What do you do to manage it?

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