Hypotension, vasoreactivity and white matter intensities in the ageing brain: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).

High blood pressure (hypertension) is known to cause brain ageing, from memory problems through to frank dementia, and is common in older age, affecting 70% of people over 70 years of age. Low blood pressure (hypotension) may be an even greater risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia; as it is an easily treatable condition this offers a potential preventative measure for dementia. One of the commonest forms of low blood pressure is a rapid drop in blood pressure on standing, which paradoxically can be present in a person who has high blood pressure when sitting or standing. This can make treatment very difficult because treating the high blood pressure with pressure-lowering medications can worsen hypotension and threaten brain function. It is thus crucially important to find out which types of blood pressure problem cause the most serious damage to the brain so that these can be controlled. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) found that 40% of people over 80 show drops in standing blood pressure and these are even more common in people who are frail: this low blood pressure is also linked to poorer mental function. TILDA therefore offers an ideal opportunity to study the role of both high and low blood pressure in brain ageing and to explain this relationship in a large longitudinal study. We will conduct MRI scans in 600 over 65s and correlate the scan information with unique measures of blood pressure, health and cognitive performance. We will then follow up people every two years to see the long term consequences for their health and mental function of these brain changes. Most importantly, we will find out which blood pressure problems cause most brain damage and will be able to recommend what treatments should be given in order to help prevent dementia.

Award Date
20 June 2014
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Rose Anne Kenny
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Health Research Awards