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Risk Factors for Dementia

6.  Hypertension

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a very powerful risk factor for dementia, including vascular and Alzheimer’s dementia.  Long-term hypertension carries the risk of damaging small arteries in the brain, which may impede blood flow and result in atrophy of brain tissue.  These mechanisms may lead to cognitive impairment and dementia.  In individuals younger than 60-years, hypertension is defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg.  In individuals older than 60-years, it is defined as a blood pressure greater than 150/90 mm Hg.  The components of blood pressure are the systolic blood pressure (the number on top) and diastolic blood pressure (the number on the bottom).

A long-term (20 years) study published in Hypertension concluded a high diastolic blood pressure at age 50 correlated with poorer cognitive performance at age 70.  In the same study, the risk of dementia was more than doubled if systolic blood pressure was in or above the range of 140-160 mm Hg.

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