Middle-aged people who experience temporary blood pressure drops that often cause dizziness upon standing up may be at an increased risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia 20 years later, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
The findings, being presented March 10 at the American Heart Association’s EPI|LIFESTYLE 2017 Scientific Sessions in Portland, OR, suggest that these temporary episodes – known as orthostatic hypotension – may cause lasting damage, possibly because they reduce needed blood flow to the brain. Previous research has suggested a connection between orthostatic hypotension and cognitive decline in older people, but this appears to be the first to look at long-term associations.
“Even though these episodes are fleeting, they may have impacts that are long lasting,” says study leader Dr. Andrea Rawlings, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. “We found that those people who suffered from orthostatic hypotension in middle age were 40 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not. It’s a significant finding and we need to better understand just what is happening.”
An estimated four million to five million Americans currently have dementia and, as the population ages, that number is only expected to grow. There currently is no treatment and no cure for the condition.