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BP Pregnancy

Controlling Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Could Lower Dementia Risk

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Researchers recently reported a connection between high blood pressure during pregnancy and a higher risk of those patients developing dementia later in life.

Investigators studied more than 2,200 women who were enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, looking for data about pregnancy and blood pressure history. Every 15 months over an average of five years, the authors administered cognitive tests, measuring benchmarks on memory, executive/attention, visuospatial, language.

The authors found 1,854 women had been pregnant at least once. A total of 385 women either never were pregnant or were pregnant less than 20 weeks. Among women who were pregnant longer than 20 weeks, researchers noted 100 recorded gestational high blood pressure, 147 experienced preeclampsia or eclampsia, and 1,607 recorded normal blood pressure.

From there, investigators adjusted for several factors, including but not limited to age, body mass index, diabetes, education levels, and heart disease. Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy declined 0.4 standard deviation over five years on tests of executive function and attention vs. women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy. The risk for developing dementia was even higher among women who experienced preeclampsia.

These results align with the results of similar studies, but this investigation was limited by the homogenous population (most women were white).

“While high blood pressure during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, is recognized as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, our study suggests that it may also be a risk factor for cognitive decline in later life,” said study author Michelle M. Mielke, PhD, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. “More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, these results suggest that managing and monitoring blood pressure during and after pregnancy is an important factor for brain health later in life.”

For more on this and other related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Clinical Cardiology Alert, Neurology Alert, and OB/GYN Clinical Alert.