Treatment of Hypertension Alters Cognitive Processing

Controlling hypertension may remedy the mild cognitive deficits associated with the condition but will not normalize cerebral regional blood flow, researchers report in the July issue of Hypertension.

"Successful treatment of blood pressure maintained or even improved mental function, but it did not change the efficiency of blood flow to the working areas in the brain," lead investigator Dr. J. Richard Jennings told Reuters Health.

Dr. Jennings, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues randomly assigned 28 volunteers with untreated hypertension to one year of therapy with either lisinopril (an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor) or atenolol (a beta-blocker).

Contrary to expectations, after a year of treatment, neither group showed any difference from baseline in the magnitude of regional cerebral blood flow in response either to memory tasks or to administration of the vasodilator acetazolamide.

"We observed instead," Dr. Jennings said, "that a compensatory cooperation between brain areas, which we'd observed before in individuals with hypertension, seemed enhanced after treatment. Changes in brain organization related to high blood pressure were enhanced, not eliminated, when blood pressure decreased."

"The results do not suggest any change in how patients should manage their hypertension," he added. "In the future, we may have to consider essential hypertension to have early influences on brain function as well as on peripheral blood pressure."

"Therapeutic approaches dealing with both these influences of essential hypertension," Dr. Jennings concluded, "are a possibility for the future."