People with high blood pressure are at risk of quicker cognitive decline and a faster slide into Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms, a new study has found.

However, the American research does not explain the disparity in dementia risk between Hispanic/Latino people and non-Hispanic people.

The team looked at data from six large studies and found that cognitive decline occurs at the same speed in both Hispanic and non-Hispanic white people.

With Hispanic people at a 50% greater risk of developing dementia compared to non-Hispanic white people in America, the researchers set out to establish whether high blood pressure could explain the difference.

Lead author Professor Deborah Levine, director of the University of Michigan’s Cognitive Health Services Research Program, said: “Our findings suggest that high blood pressure causes faster cognitive decline, and that taking hypertension medication slows the pace of that decline.

“Since other studies have shown that people of Hispanic heritage in the United States tend to have higher rates of uncontrolled hypertension than non-Hispanic white people, due in part to worse access to care, it’s vital that they get extra support to control their blood pressure even if blood pressure is only part of the picture when it comes to their higher dementia risk.

“A risk factor like uncontrolled high blood pressure that is more prevalent in one group can still contribute to substantial health disparities.”

Professor Levine and her team looked at data from just over 22,000 non-Hispanic white adults and 2,475 Hispanic adults, with no previous history of dementia or stroke when they enrolled on long-term studies carried out over the last 50 years.

Two studies which had specially recruited Hispanic people revealed a quicker cognitive decline in people of this ethnic background compared to non-Hispanic white people.

However, the differences in blood pressure levels between the two groups could not explain the disparities in declining brain function, with one possible explanation being that the Hispanic people had lower blood pressure levels.

Professor Levine highlighted the absence of full information in the studies, including income, early life experiences and quality of education, which could go some way to explain the differences in cognitive decline between the two groups.

The study has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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