High Blood Pressure May Affect MCI

Mild cognitive impairment got worse faster with uncontrolled high blood pressure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) High blood pressure can be controlled with medicine, but it often goes unnoticed. In people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), blood pressure issues might affect mental function.

In a recent study, people with MCI had their blood pressure and mental skills tested over two years. People with two or more readings of high blood pressure lost mental skills faster than people who had controlled blood pressure. 

Controlling blood pressure may be an important part of MCI treatment.

"See your doctor for a blood pressure reading."

Researchers, led by Felicia C. Goldstein, PhD, of the School of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, wanted to know how uncontrolled blood pressure might affect mental skills for people with MCI.

A total of 1,385 people with mild MCI had blood pressure readings taken at the beginning of the study. Blood pressure was also taken once a year for two years. None of the participants had a history of stroke.

At each of the blood pressure readings, the researchers also did standard psychological tests to measure mental skills and memory.

Normal blood pressure is about 120/80 (systolic/diastolic).  High blood pressure was defined as a top number (systolic) of 140 or higher or a bottom number (diastolic) of 90 or more.

A total of 204 participants (15 percent) had high blood pressure at all the test times. Another 323 participants (23 percent) had high blood pressure at two of the three readings and 273 participants (27 percent) had a high blood pressure reading at only one of the test times.

The remaining 485 participants (35 percent) had no high blood pressure readings.

The researchers then compared the mental skills scores of patients with high blood pressure readings to those of patients with well-controlled blood pressure.

They found that patients with two or more readings of high blood pressure showed a faster rate of decline on scores of total mental ability.

High blood pressure at two or more of the test times was also linked with faster decline in some specific skills on the tests.

People with MCI and uncontrolled blood pressure had more trouble over time with certain tasks, including writing a set of numbers in sequence, quickly manipulating numbers and naming objects.

The authors concluded that uncontrolled high blood pressure may be a risk factor for faster decline in certain skills for people with MCI.

The researchers also said that longer-term uncontrolled blood pressure seems to be the problem. People who had only one high blood pressure reading during the study had similar scores on the mental tests to people with no high blood pressure readings. 

The longer people with MCI had high blood pressure, the more their mental skills were affected.

However, more research is needed to know how long-term uncontrolled high blood pressure affects mental skills of people with MCI. The present study only looked at two years.

Also, the people in this study with two or more readings of high blood pressure were older, on average, than the group of people who did not have any high blood pressure readings.  This could mean that age, which is related to faster rates of cognitive decline in MCI, influenced the results of this study.

The study did not look at why or how high blood pressure might affect cognitive decline, so it is not clear if high blood pressure is the cause of the changes in thinking skills or just a paired symptom.

This study was published January 10 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study was funded by Emory Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 16, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013