Kat Lay

Health Correspondent

The Times

Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:

“We have known for a while that high blood pressure increases the risk for developing dementia, this research suggests that even a marginally increased blood pressure also increases risk in the age group 45-55 (but not at 60 or 70). Those with a systolic BP of >130mmHg showed a 45% increased risk of developing dementia

I am not a fan of over medicalising the population, i.e. suggesting that people take medication to lower their blood pressure but helping them to adopt healthier ways of managing their blood pressure can only be helpful.”

People aged 45-55 with raised blood pressure that is not classed as “high” still run a significantly greater risk of developing dementia, a study shows.

Research involving 10,000 civil servants found that those whose high blood pressure was mild had a 45 per cent greater chance of the condition than those with a lower measurement.

It will add weight to calls for health chiefs to lower the level at which high blood pressure is diagnosed, which at present is 140 mmHg. Last year the United States lowered this to 130 mmHg, the level at which the study detected a greater dementia risk.

Such a move would mean seven million more people in England being classed as having high blood pressure, making them eligible for NHS drug treatment. Critics say that this would result in an over-medicalised population. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is considering whether to lower the threshold and is due to publish guidance next year.

Experts said that raised blood pressure was linked to silent strokes, whose symptoms may not be noticeable but that still damage the brain. It is thought that this damage may underlie the resulting decline in brain function.

The results, published in the European Heart Journal today, are part of the Whitehall II study of civil servants recruited in 1985 when they were aged 35-55. They had their blood pressure measured regularly and provided information on their health and lifestyle.

Of 8,639 people in the analysis, 385 developed dementia by 2017, at an average age of 75. Participants appeared to be at higher risk when they had raised blood pressure at the age of 50. The risk was not seen if their systolic blood pressure reached 130 mmHg at 60 or 70.

High blood pressure has been linked to dementia by multiple studies, but the latest pinpoints increased risk for those with a lower measurement. The ideal level is considered to be between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg.