Posted on Oct 17, 2023, 4 p.m.
Recent research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) published in the journal Cerebral Circulation--Cognition and Behavior has found that fluctuating blood pressure can be just as risky as high blood pressure, and it can be a potential precursor to dementia and vascular disease.
According to the UniSA researchers, short blood pressure (BP) fluctuations within 24 hours and over several days or weeks are linked with impaired cognition. Additionally, higher systolic blood pressure variations are also linked with stiffening of the arteries, and associated with heart disease.
"Clinical treatments focus on hypertension while ignoring the variability of blood pressure," says lead author Daria Gutteridge, a Ph.D. candidate based in UniSA's Cognitive Ageing and Impairment Neuroscience Laboratory (CAIN). "Blood pressure can fluctuate across different time frames -- short and long -- and this appears to heighten the risk of dementia and blood vessel health."
This study involved 70 healthy adults between the ages of 60-80 years old with no signs of cognitive impairment or dementia. Participants completed cognitive testing, their BP was monitored and arterial stiffness in the brain and arteries were measured using transcranial Doppler sonography as well as pulse wave analysis.
"We found that higher blood pressure variability within a day, as well as across days, was linked with reduced cognitive performance. We also found that higher blood pressure variations within the systolic BP were linked with higher blood vessel stiffness in the arteries.
"These results indicate that the different types of BP variability likely reflect different underlying biological mechanisms, and that systolic and diastolic blood pressure variation are both important for cognitive functioning in older adults."
According to the researchers, these links were present in older adults without clinically relevant cognitive impairment which suggests that blood pressure variability could potentially be an early clinical marker or target for therapy for cognitive impairment.
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