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Longitudinal studies suggest that hypertension in midlife is associated with cognitive impairment in later life. Cross-sectional studies are difficult to interpret because blood pressure can change with onset of dementia and the inclusion of subjects on treatment and with hypertensive end-organ damage can make analysis difficult. We examined cognitive performance in hypertensive and normotensive subjects without dementia or stroke >/=70 years of age. Cognitive performance was determined with the use of a computerized assessment battery in 107 untreated hypertensives (55 women, age 76+/-4 years, blood pressure, 164+/-9/89+/-7; range, 138 to 179/68 to 99 mm Hg) and 116 normotensives (51 female, age 76+/-4 years, 131+/-10/74+/-7; 108 to 149/60 to 89 mm Hg). Older subjects with hypertension were significantly slower in all tests (reaction time, milliseconds; simple, 346+/-100 versus 318+/-56, P<0.05; memory scanning, 867+/-243 versus 789+/-159, P<0.01; immediate word recognition, 947+/-261 versus 886+/-192, P<0.05; and delayed word recognition, 937+/-230 versus 856+/-184, P<0.05; picture recognition, 952+/-184 versus 894+/-137, P<0.01; spatial memory, 1390+/-439 versus 1258+/-394, P<0.01; excepting choice reaction time, 510+/-75 versus 498+/-72, P=0.08). Accuracy was also impaired in tests of number vigilance, 99.2+/-2.5% versus 99.9+/-0.9, P<0.01; delayed word recognition, 83.5+/-16 versus 87.9+/-9.8, P<0.01; and spatial memory 64+/-32 versus 79+/-20, P<0.001. Hypertension in older subjects is associated with impaired cognition in a broad range of areas in the absence of clinically evident target organ damage.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1079 - 1082


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Cognition, Dementia, Female, Humans, Hypertension, Longitudinal Studies, Male