Researchers who studied over 7,000 women found that the risk of dementia increased by 73 per cent in women who developed blood pressure problems in their 40s.
The findings reinforce the widely known notion that the lifestyle habits you lead during your middle-aged years have a profound impact on your retirement health.
The study was published in the medical journal Neurology and involved 7,238 people from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system. The participants had their blood pressure checked from the mid-1960s, when they were aged 33 on average. They then had it measured again when they were, on average, aged 44.
Dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK with this number predicted to rise to more than a million by 2025. High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, affects one in three British adults.
Only half of those affected by high blood pressure know that they are at risk, because there are no symptoms. Many do not discover they are suffering from it until it is too late.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, commented on the results of the study. He said, “It is a well-established fact that high blood pressure in mid-life can increase our chances of developing dementia in later life.
“Previous research has shown links between hypertension and dementia among both sexes so this work suggesting a link in women but not men is surprising.”
He added, “We should be mindful that this study tested the blood pressure of people in a particular health-scheme in Northern California in the 1960s and 70s.
Dr Brown stressed that more studies would be needed to fully understand the possibility of differences in men and women.
The NHS suggests that people over 40 get their blood pressure tested every five years with their GP or pharmacy. It is also advised that you keep in good health with regular exercise and a balanced diet.
It is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. So walking to the shops or fitting in a quick swim or run can really make the difference. Get all the family involved to keep you motivated – and make it a little more fun!