High Blood Pressure May Harm Your Ability to Think

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Man checking his blood pressure
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Not only is high blood pressure bad for your heart, but it also may impair your brain’s ability to function, according to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is associated with a greater risk for several types of cognitive impairment, including a faster erosion in the ability to:

  • Think
  • Make decisions
  • Remember information

To examine how blood pressure readings are related to brain function over a period of years, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed data on more than 24,000 white and Hispanic adults from a half-dozen large studies. Those participants were in their 60s, on average, and had no history of stroke or dementia when they enrolled in those studies.

The University of Michigan researchers had access to nearly eight years of data on participants, on average, including their systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading.

In a summary of the new study’s findings, Dr. Deborah Levine, lead author of the study and director of the University of Michigan’s Cognitive Health Services Research Program, says:

“Our findings suggest that high blood pressure causes faster cognitive decline, and that taking hypertension medication slows the pace of that decline.”

Initially, the researchers set out to determine why Hispanic people face a 50% higher overall risk of dementia than non-Hispanic white people in the U.S. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know if long-term blood pressure control explained the differences.

As it turns out, the study’s findings suggest blood pressure control is not at the root of such differences, with cognitive decline occurring at the same pace in both people of Hispanic heritage and non-Hispanic white people.

For more on keeping your brain in good shape, check out “The Top 10 Foods for Protecting the Brain as You Age.”

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.