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Having memory problems in middle age? Get your blood pressure checked, for a new study says that hypertension could well be the cause.

Researchers have found that people over 45 with high diastolic blood pressure are more likely to have cognitive impairment, or problems with their memory and thinking skills, the 'Neurology' reported.

High blood pressure is defined as a reading equal to or higher than 140/90. "It's possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia," said lead researcher Georgios Tsivgoulis University of Alabama.

According to the researchers, high blood pressure leads to weakening of small arteries in the brain, which can result in the development of small areas of brain damage.

The study involved nearly 20,000 people aged 45 who had never had a stroke or mini-stroke. A total of 1,505 of subjects or 7.6 per cent, had cognitive problems, and 9,844 or 49.6 per cent, were taking medication for high blood pressure.

In fact, the study also found that for every 10 point increase in the reading, the odds of a person having cognitive problems is seven per cent higher. The results were valid even after adjusting for factors like age, smoking status, diabetes or high cholesterol.

However, Tsivgoulis said that more research is needed to confirm the relationship between high blood pressure and cognitive impairment. "The study is one of the largest population-based studies of risk factors for stroke. These latest data suggest that higher blood pressure may be a risk factor for cognitive decline, but further studies will be necessary to understand the cause-effect relationship," said Walter J. Koroshetz of the American Academy of Neurology.

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