Furthermore, the researchers reported, middle-aged subjects with high blood pressure showed more of a slowing in cognitive performance tests than did older adults with high blood pressure.
According to the researchers, past studies have been epidemiological in nature and have hinted that hypertensive patients perform worse than individuals with normal blood pressure on cognition tests, as measured by the speed of mental processing, attention, and memory tasks. However, unlike the new Duke study, which was performed in a laboratory setting, previous studies have been unable to tease out relationships between elevated blood pressures and age on specific cognitive tasks.
The results of the Duke experiments were published today (Sept. 29, 2003) in the September issue of the journal Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
"While the changes in cognitive performance associated with elevated blood pressure seen in our experiments were statistically significant, they are unlikely to interfere with mental functioning during everyday life," said Duke's David Madden, Ph.D., cognitive psychologist and researcher in aging. "However, the changes we recorded in the laboratory may represent a situation that could become clinically significant when other diseases, especially those that are cardiovascular in nature, are included.
"The significance of these cognitive effects will become clearer as additional evidence is obtained regarding the changes in brain structure and function that typically accompany chronically elevated blood pressure," Madden said.
Unlike the previous studies, where patients often had other diseases and might have been on medications, t
Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center