In a study released last week by the American Heart Association, researchers found blood pressure swings may be linked to cognitive decline.
The study published in the Hypertension Journal was an observational study that looked at data from 1,000 Chinese adults in the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Because it was an observational study, the correlations cannot be completely exact in its evidence.
The survey that they drew their observations from had participants’ blood pressure and cognitive tests that assessed their memory with word recall and their ability to count backwards.
The participants that performed the worst on the cognitive tests were those whose blood pressure levels significantly changed between each doctor visit.
The relationship between blood pressure swings was more related to cognitive decline than just a high or low average of blood pressure. Participants’ average blood pressure levels were not correlated to worse cognitive test results.
The lead author of the study, Bo Qin, stated, “Blood pressure variability might signal blood flow instability, which could lead to the damage of the finer vessels of the body with changes in brain structure and function.”
A change in blood pressure throughout the day, even for healthy people, is normal. Blood pressure levels tend to be lower in the morning and then increase throughout the day. However, it’s the large swing in blood pressure that has been associated with heart attack, stroke, or death.
Doctors generally focus on their patients’ average blood pressure levels, rather than the amount their blood pressure fluctuates from visit to visit or even day to day. This study could change the way doctors and researchers track their patients’ blood pressure and cognitive health.
If you have blood pressure problems, be sure to track your blood pressure and talk to your doctor about any changes in your physical or mental health. Noticing what your body is telling you and doing something about it can help prevent more serious risks like stroke, heart attack or death.