HealthDay News — For seniors and particularly blacks with hypertension, lowering systolic blood pressure to 120 mm Hg or lower may help prevent cognitive decline, according to a report published in JAMA Neurology.

From 1997 to 2007, Ihab Hajjar, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues collected data on 1657 adults aged 70 to 79 who were being treated for hypertension and showed no signs of cognitive decline. During the study period, cognition was assessed using the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination 4 times and the Digit Symbol Substitution Test 5 times.

The researchers found that scores on the cognitive tests were linked with the patient’s systolic blood pressure.

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The higher the systolic number, the more test scores declined. Moreover, the declines in test scores were greater in blacks with high systolic blood pressures than they were among whites with similar blood pressure readings.

“The negative health effects of higher blood pressure are more prevalent in blacks, especially related to kidney disease, stroke, and cardiovascular health,” Hajjar told HealthDay. “Therefore, it is conceivable that lowering blood pressure in this population would have a far greater impact than other groups for the cognitive effects as well.”

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Hajjar I, Rosenberger KJ, Kulshreshtha A, Ayonayon HN, Yaffe K, Goldstein FC. Association of JNC-8 and SPRINT systolic blood pressure levels with cognitive function and related racial disparity [published online August 21, 2017]. JAMA Neurol. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2017.1863.