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Hypertension Might Hinder Thinking
Date:12/15/2008

Brainpower slowed on days when blood pressure shot up, study found

MONDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Sudden surges in blood pressure could make seniors with chronic hypertension a little less smart, new research suggests.

"If you have high blood pressure, on days when your blood pressure spikes higher than normal, cognitive ability is worse than normal," concluded lead researcher Jason Allaire, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh.

Whether high blood pressure itself is responsible for the decline in reasoning or whether it's a marker for other factors, such as stress, that result in impaired thinking isn't known. But it's another reason to keep your blood pressure down, experts said.

"This finding suggests that if you have high blood pressure that is not controlled, your cognitive abilities are going to decline faster as you get older," Allaire said.

The report is published in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

For the study, the researchers had 36 people between 60 and 87 years of age take verbal learning tests, letter and number comparison tests, and other cognitive exams. The tests were given twice a day over 60 days. The researchers also measured the participants' ongoing blood pressures.

They found that people with chronic high blood pressure tended to do poorly in cognitive tests when their blood pressure spiked above normal.

However, there was no change in cognitive functioning among people whose average blood pressure was in the low or normal range, even when their blood pressure did rise above normal, Allaire's group noted.

It is possible that chronic high blood pressure could cause problems with cognition, Allaire said, or that spikes in blood pressure could cause changes in the brain that affect thinking.

The findings could also indicate that the stres
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