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Ann Behav Med. 2005 Jun;29(3):174-80.

Diagnosis of hypertension and high blood pressure levels negatively affect cognitive function in older adults.

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Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.



Hypertension is associated with diminished performance on tests of cognitive function. The degree to which those diagnosed with hypertension have controlled blood pressure (BP) levels may be a critical determinant of cognitive outcomes. Persons with hypertension and poorly controlled BP are likely to display the worst performance on cognitive tests.


The purpose is to examine potential interactive relations of hypertension diagnostic status and current BP levels to cognitive function.


Participants were 101 healthy older adults (ages 53-84, 62% male, 90% White, 29% diagnosed with hypertension) who engaged in biomedical and neuropsychological assessment.


After statistical adjustment for age and education, persons with high BP performed more poorly than those with normal BP on the Visual Reproductions-Immediate and Delayed Recall and the Grooved Pegboard tests. Diagnosed hypertension was related to poorer performance on the Grooved Pegboard tests. An interaction of diagnosed hypertension and BP level revealed that those diagnosed with hypertension and also having poorly controlled BP levels performed least well on the Grooved Pegboard tests and the Trail Making Test-Part A.


Irrespective of prior diagnostic status, individuals with high BP displayed compromised performance on tests of nonverbal memory, motor speed, and manual dexterity. However, as compared to the other groups, those diagnosed with hypertension and also having poorly controlled BP elevation were most vulnerable to difficulties on tests of perceptuo-motor speed, motor speed, and manual dexterity. These findings suggest the need for increased attention to preventative efforts with respect to BP assessment and control in older adults to help preserve cognitive function.

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