Newsbriefs: Blood Pressure; Stroke Prevention

Variable Blood Pressure and Cognitive Decline

A new study (Hypertension, May 23) suggests that fluctuations in blood pressure could put seniors at risk for faster cognitive decline. Researchers analyzed results from a five-year study including 976 people age 55 and older. Blood pressure variability was calculated from three or four visits to their doctor, and participants also underwent a series of cognitive quizzes, such as performing word recall, and counting backwards. Participants whose systolic (the upper number) blood pressure fluctuated the most over five years showed a faster decline in cognitive function, including a decline in their verbal memory (the ability to remember words). These data add to a growing body of evidence that variation in blood pressure readings may indicate increased risk for some additional health problems. If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice for keeping your levels stable.

Aspirin and Stroke Prevention

Taking aspirin after experiencing stroke-like symptoms could substantially reduce the risk for major strokes, according to a study published May 18 in The Lancet. Aspirin already is given to people who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)—also known as a “mini-stroke”—to prevent further strokes in the days following the initial event, and has been shown to reduce the risk for subsequent stroke by 15 percent. The new study analyzed data on about 56,000 people, and found that almost all of the benefit of aspirin in reducing the risk for another stroke was in the first few days and weeks, when the drug reduced the risk by about 70-80 percent. Aspirin also reduced the severity of these early strokes. If you experience possible stroke or TIA symptoms (for example, numbness or muscle weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, double vision, and dizziness), take aspirin and contact your doctor immediately.   

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