Variations on blood pressure readings have been linked to declines on brain functions in older patients, according to a recent investigation published in the American Heart Association’s health journal Hypertension.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million American adults suffer from high blood pressure, that’s one of every three adults in the United States.

Only 52 percent of patients with high blood pressure in the U.S have their disease under control which, according to the CDC, costs the nation around $46 billion on health care services every year.

Variations on blood pressure readings have been linked to declines on brain functions in older patients. Photo credit: Hemophilia Federation of America
Variations on blood pressure readings have been linked to declines on brain functions in older patients. Photo credit: Hemophilia Federation of America

Recently, a team of researchers analyzed data from older patients and their regular medical appointments, finding that those patients with higher variability on their blood pressure had also faster decline on their cognitive functions.

“Blood pressure variability might signal blood flow instability, which could lead to the damage of the vessels of the body with changes in brain structure and function. These blood pressure fluctuations may indicate pathological processes such as inflammation and impaired function in the blood vessels themselves,” said Bonnie Qin, lead author of the study in a statement.

Blood pressure levels and brain functions

The investigation, held by Ph.D. Bonnie Qin from the Rutgers Cancer Institute, New Jersey, studied data facts from the China Health and Nutrition Survey which included 976 Chinese adults between the ages of 55 years and older.

Data facts covered five years of regular routine check ups on the patients, which included blood pressure levels and results from different cognitive quizzes like word recall exercises and counting numbers backward.

After analyzing the data, researchers found that patients with a higher variability of their systolic blood pressure – top number in blood pressure readings – had a faster decline in their cognitive quizzes results.

Diastolic blood pressure levels – bottom number in blood pressure readings – were associated with a higher decline in adults between the ages of 55 and 64 and not in older adults.

Although cognitive brain functions levels declined during check-up routines, high blood pressure levels were not associated with changes in brain functioning.

The study held by the team of researchers was observational and it is yet to suggest a cause and effect between the variations of high blood pressure and brain function decline, but Qin hopes these findings could help patients.

“Controlling blood pressure instability could possibly be a potential strategy in preserving cognitive function among older adults,” said lead author Bonnie Qin, who hopes physicians focus more on high blood pressure variability instead of blood pressure readings.

The findings of the study are one in many results that indicate high blood pressure variability could lead to more health issues in older patients, yet more investigations need to be made on the subject.

High blood pressure

Around 360,000 deaths in the United States have been attributed to high pressure as a primary cause or as a contributing cause of death, meaning that 1,000 deaths a day are due to high blood pressure in the nation.

High blood pressure readings endangered heart and health conditions, according to the CDC, seven out of ten patients suffer their first heart attack thanks to high blood pressure levels as well as eight out of ten patients have their first stroke because of high blood pressure readings.

Other complications can include chronic heart failure and kidney diseases in patients suffering from high blood pressure.

Specialists and doctors recommend older adults, especially 60 years and older, to maintain constant check-ups with their doctors to receive the correct treatment.

Recommendations for high blood pressure patients include reducing the amount of salt or sodium ingestion on a daily basis and a proper healthy lifestyle.

Source: American Heart Association