04 August 2009

Mid-life high blood pressure raise dementia risk

Having high blood pressure, smoking or having diabetes in middle age dramatically increases the risk of developing dementia in later life.

Researchers in the US looked at the lifestyles of 11,151 people age 46-70 years and followed their health for 12-14 years.

The study (published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry) found that, for people aged less than 55 years:

  • Having high blood pressure increases the risk of dementia
  • Smoking increases the risk of dementia five-fold
  • Having diabetes increases the risk of dementia three-fold

In fact, people who had high blood pressure were 60% more likely to develop dementia than people who didn't have high blood pressure. While people who were smoking were 70% more like to develop dementia in later life than those people who had never smoked. People who had diabetes were more than 100% more likely to develop than people without diabetes.

Dementia is caused by damage to the blood vessels supplying the brain. High blood pressure, smoking and diabetes all damage the insides of these arteries and may explain the link between these conditions and a raised risk of dementia in later life.

These findings reinforce the need for everyone - especially in middle age - to take good care of their health by eating healthily, being regularly active and keeping to a healthy weight.