High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects about 75 million Americans – or approximately 1 out of every 3 adults [1]. It can be a serious health condition, as high blood pressure can increase the risk for cardiovascular and kidney disease. However, a new research suggests that women with high blood pressure early in life might be at risk for developing other health complications such as dementia [2].

A study published in the journal Neurology, examined the health records of over 5,600 men and women over a 50-year time period for evidence of high blood pressure in early- to mid-adulthood and a diagnosis of dementia after the age of 60. The authors found that women who developed high blood pressure in their 40s had a 73% higher risk of developing dementia later in life, compared to women with normal blood pressure. Interestingly, this increase in risk was sex-specific, as it was not seen in men.

While other research has shown that high blood pressure is a risk factor for developing dementia [reviewed in 3], this is the first study to demonstrate a significant sex-difference in dementia risk for women with high blood pressure at a young age. Additional research is needed to determine how high blood pressure, over the course of a lifespan, affects men and women differently.

1. Centers for Disease Control
2. Gilsanz et al., Neurology. 2017 Oct 4. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004602.
3. Kennelly et al., Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2009 Jul; 2(4): 241–260.