Mid-life crisis prolonged

High blood pressure when you are over the hill causes 'silent' strokes, which pile up and damage cognitive faculties in your old age

Published: Friday 15 March 1996

WHEN grandpa could not recollect where he had kept his wristwatch, the kids started laughing. And grandpa was sad; who likes to be laughed at, especially by your son's sons? Grandpa did not know nor probably his doctors of yore, that the trouble had started long back in his midlife. Scientists concluded recently that the root of such memory lapses lie in the incidence of mid-life high blood pressure (Bp). So, controlling HP at that age would not only reduce the risk of heart disease, but also help people's cognition stay sharp in their old age.

A collaborative study conducted by researchers from The Netherlands- based National Institute for Public Health and Environment, the University of Hawaii, USA and the us National Institute on Aging, led to this discovery. In this protracted, study, 3,735 Japanese-American men were monitored for heart conditions right from the '60s to the early'90s. When the test subjects reached an average age of 78, their cognitive functions were measured.

The results were startling@ subjects with. high BP in their mid-life were two- and-a-half times more prone to old age cognitive dysfunctions as compared to those with low Systolic BP (around I 10 in BP reading). A normal systolic reading is typically 120, and 160 an(@above is considered high.

Researchers inferred that for every 10-point increase in Systolic BP, there is a nine per cent increase in the risk of old age cognitive problems. The explanation is interesting: high BP causes tiny Isilent' strokes that never really show up but can impair thinking. These are the findings of brain scans performed on patients all through the study period, the researchers involved in the study reveal.

Though the subjects in this threedecade-long study were all men, the scientists say that women cannot hope to escape the same protess either. However, links between high BP and dementia, or diseases like Alzheimer's have not been explored yet.

The findings have caused concern. "A public health strategy to achieve reduction in even mildly elevated systolic blood pre 'ssure would be warranted," says Lenore J Launer, leader of the study team. So, if you do not want to be a grandpa who forgets that his wristwatch is right there on his wrist, or a grandma who can never find her reading glasses, keep that BP factor in mind as you go through the '40s and '50s.

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