Scientists have long known that hypertension in later adulthood increases the risk of developing dementia, but for women, the effects of hypertension on the risk factors begin earlier than once thought. Women who have hypertension in their 40s have an up to 73 percent higher risk of developing dementia later in their lives, according to a longitudinal records study published in Neurology.
Researchers studied the medical records of 5,646 people within the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health system, tracking their hypertensive status, the persistence of the hypertension and when any cardiovascular changes occurred. While examining patient records spanning the 1960s through 2015, researchers noted hypertension rates tended to increase during midlife—an average age of 44—and women in this category were up to 73 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life than similar-aged women without hypertension.
Interestingly, the hypertensive men in the study didn’t see the same spike in risk in any of the age categories.
The study highlights the importance of monitoring blood pressure and encouraging healthy cardiovascular health, especially among younger residents. The data also could provide educational opportunities for staff to engage the younger family members of residents with dementia by stressing the importance of wellness and early intervention.
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