Study links long-term fluctuations in blood pressure with increased risk of dementia

A new study found that long-term variation in blood pressure may increase the risk of developing dementia. The study, conducted by a team of international researchers at Erasmus University Medical Center and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was released online in the journal PLOS Medicine.

In the U.S., over 77 million, or 1 in 3 adults, suffer from high blood pressure, with that count reaching over 1 billion on a global scale, according to the World Health Organization.

In the study, researchers recruited 5,273 participants from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, examining them as patients without dementia at the start of the study and following up nearly 15 years later. The majority of the participants were women, with an average age of 67.

“Absolute variation in systolic blood pressure was assessed as the absolute difference in SBP divided by the mean over two sequential visits every 4.2 years, with the first quantile set as the reference level,” the findings state.

For researchers, the main intent was to determine if long-term blood pressure variation was correlated with an increased risk of dementia.

Based on the findings, researchers found that long-term variation in blood pressure was linked to an increased risk of dementia.

“Results of this study showed that a large blood pressure variation over a period of years was associated with an increased long-term risk of dementia,” the study’s co-authors wrote.

“The association between blood pressure variation and dementia appears most pronounced when this variation occurred long before the diagnosis. An elevated long-term risk of dementia was observed with both a large rise and fall in blood pressure.”

The findings point to a new understanding as to the significance of blood pressure variation among patients at risk of dementia.

“If the observed association is causal, our study suggests an opportunity to prevent dementia through targeting large variation in blood pressure over a period of years above and beyond the mere control of conventional blood pressure limits,” researchers concluded.