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High Blood Pressure Linked to Disability, Dementia
Date:11/19/2007

Controlling hypertension might stave off problems of aging, studies suggest

MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- People with high blood pressure are at increased risk for disability and dementia as they age, two new studies suggest.

In the first report, researchers found that high blood pressure increased the risk of developing disabilities, such as not being able to lift objects, walk up or down stairs, or bathe oneself.

"High blood pressure affects many aspects of a person's life," said lead researcher Dr. Ihab Hajjar, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Not only does it affect the vascular system and the heart and the brain and kidney, but it also affects well-being -- the ability to be independent, ability to perform daily activities, and be physically active."

Individuals who have lower blood pressure tend to develop less disability later in life and show less decline in their physical abilities compared with people who have higher blood pressure, Hajjar said. "This is a new aspect of the risk of high blood pressure," he noted.

The report was published in the December issue of Hypertension.

Hajjar's team collected data on 999 people who took part in the Charleston Heart Study, which started in 1960. Among these people, 70 percent had high blood pressure, but only 21 percent had their blood pressure controlled to optimal levels.

The researchers found that people with high blood pressure were more likely to have difficulty lifting objects, walking up or down stairs, or bathing themselves compared with people who had normal blood pressure.

In addition, people with high blood pressure who didn't have disability in their 80s did have a 15 percent to 36 percent increased risk of developing one of the three types of disabilities by the time they were checked in their early 90s, compared with those with normal blood pressure.

According to Ha
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