Understanding the role of high blood pressure in risk of dementia

Lead Investigator: Professor Neil Pearce 

Institution: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 

Grant type: Project 

Duration: 24 months

Amount: £55,358

Scientific Title: The influence of blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors on dementia risk in middle and old age

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'It is good to see the CPRD in use and so constructively. It certainly seems counterintuitive that the connection between blood pressure and dementia should be weak and inconsistent.'

'It would seem very useful to understand whether cardiovascular risk factors play a role in dementia risk. Prevention strategies appear to be a very under-researched area.'

'I think this is an extremely important research project as blood pressure, cardiovascular risks and high cholesterol have been assumed to be a major influence in contracting Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia'

What do we already know?

Evidence shows that having high blood pressure could increase the risk of dementia. However, existing studies into this potential link are usually small or have not studied people for a long period of time. As about 33% of men and 25% of women aged 45-54 have high blood pressure, understanding more about this link has the potential help a significant number of people to reduce their risk of developing dementia. 

What does this project involve?

The researchers aim to more fully understand whether there is a link between high blood pressure and dementia. They will use records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, which collects data from GP services. An advantage of using this resource is its size, as it represents about 9% of the UK population. Another benefit is that the researchers can access records from 1992, meaning they can follow people's health outcomes over a long period of time. 

The team will examine the records and use them to find out whether people with high blood pressure were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life. They will also take into account factors like whether their blood pressure was treated, and the age at which the person's high blood pressure was first recorded. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

Clarifying the potential role of blood pressure in dementia development is important as it could help researchers and doctors to identify people who are most at risk. The access to records that cover a long period of someone's life also means that researchers can identify the ideal time to offer people at risk the appropriate treatment. This understanding could potentially lead to a reduced number of people developing dementia in the future.