Smoking and high blood pressure linked to cognitive decline

London researchers shed more light on risk factors for cognitive health.

Posted on 26th November 2012

Researchers in London have linked smoking and high blood pressure to cognitive decline in over-50s. The study is published on Monday 26 November in the journal Age and Ageing.

Scientists at King’s College London studied data from 8,780 people with an average age of 67, who were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. At the start of the study, data was collected on the participants’ smoking habits, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, risk of stroke and body mass index (BMI). The participants also took part in a range of cognitive tests to assess their memory and thinking skills after four and eight years.

The results showed that smoking was consistently linked to lower cognitive scores after both four and eight years, while in younger groups of participants, high blood pressure was also linked to worse performance on some cognitive tests after eight years. The researchers suggest that multiple cardiovascular risk factors may have an effect on cognitive decline, but that high blood pressure may only show an effect after a longer period.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and this study adds further weight to that evidence. Cognitive decline as we age can develop into dementia, and unravelling the factors that are linked to this decline could be crucial for finding ways to prevent the condition. It would be helpful to see whether the people in the study went on to develop dementia, but these results underline the importance of looking after your cardiovascular health from mid-life.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia in the UK, and the numbers increasing, we urgently need to find ways to prevent the diseases that cause dementia. Preventions for the future can only come through research, which is why it’s vital to invest in research today.”

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