Prehypertensive blood pressures and regional cerebral blood flow independently relate to cognitive performance in midlife

J. Richard Jennings, Matthew F. Muldoon, Christopher Ryan, H. Michael Gach, Alicia Heim, Lei K. Sheu, Peter J. Gianaros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background--High blood pressure is thought to contribute to dementia in late life, but our understanding of the relationship between individual differences in blood pressure (BP) and cognitive functioning is incomplete. In this study, cognitive performance in nonhypertensive midlife adults was examined as a function of resting BP and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) responses during cognitive testing. We hypothesized that BP would be negatively related to cognitive performance and that cognitive performance would also be related to rCBF responses within areas related to BP control. We explored whether deficits related to systolic BP might be explained by rCBF responses to mental challenge. Methods and Results--Healthy midlife participants (n=227) received neuropsychological testing and performed cognitive tasks in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. A pseudocontinuous arterial spin labeling sequence assessed rCBF in brain areas related to BP in prior studies. Systolic BP was negatively related to 4 of 5 neuropsychological factors (standardized β>0.13): memory, working memory, executive function, and mental efficiency. The rCBF in 2 brain regions of interest was similarly related to memory, executive function, and working memory (standardized β>0.17); however, rCBF responses did not explain the relationship between resting systolic BP and cognitive performance. Conclusions--Relationships at midlife between prehypertensive levels of systolic BP and both cognitive and brain function were modest but suggested the possible value of midlife intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere004856
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • Cognition
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Middle age
  • Prehypertension
  • Regional blood flow


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