Preeclampsia tied to tripling of dementia in later life

October 18, 2018 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—High blood pressure during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia—a potentially life-threatening complication. Now, new research suggests preeclampsia might also make women more vulnerable to a specific type of dementia.

Women with a history of preeclampsia were 3.4 times more likely to suffer from vascular later in life, the researchers found. This form of dementia is triggered by impaired blood flow in the .

The association makes perfect sense given that preeclampsia is a complication that affects the , said Dr. Joel Ray. He's a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

The new study was published online Oct. 17 in the BMJ.

However, another new study, published Oct. 17 in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that preeclampsia did not predispose to significant cognitive impairment later in life.

Instead, other physical and social risk factors—such as depression, body mass index and education level—may contribute to any mental decline, according to the researchers behind the second study.

Preeclampsia typically develops late in pregnancy. It occurs in 3 percent to 5 percent of pregnancies and, if left untreated, can risk the lives of both mother and child.

The stress that preeclampsia puts on blood vessels could affect brain health in a way that would promote vascular dementia, which is caused by a series of "staccato" events that add up one by one to harm the brain by impairing blood flow, Ray explained.

"Vascular dementia is a form of dementia that clearly arises from alteration in typically small blood vessels," Ray said. "Something happens, not slowly but pretty quickly, and when that happens the person takes a step downward in their cognition. Something changes, and it isn't noticeable over years."

Strokes that block a brain artery, or other conditions that damage brain blood vessels, can lead to vascular dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

For the new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1 million women in Denmark who gave birth at least once between 1978 and 2015. None of the women had been diagnosed with heart problems, stroke, diabetes or dementia prior to their first birth.

The investigators found 1.4 cases of vascular dementia per 100,000 person years for women with a history of preeclampsia, compared with 0.47 cases per 100,000 person years in women who never developed the complication.

The association between preeclampsia and vascular dementia was particularly strong for women who developed dementia after age 65, and persisted even after taking into account other risk factors for that form of dementia, the researchers said.

But the findings did not prove that preeclampsia caused to rise.

Preeclampsia did not appear to be a factor in Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, according to the report.

As a possible explanation for the association, the research team noted that a gene that increases susceptibility to preeclampsia—STOX1—was found in other research to be overexpressed in late-onset Alzheimer's disease. The gene has also been linked to the processing of amyloid beta, a sticky compound that accumulates in the brain and is associated with Alzheimer's.

Because this was an observational study, there's no way to know the exact nature of the link, said Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association.

"Is it because you had that change in your that impacts your brain health in later life, that makes your brain more vulnerable to other changes in later life?" Snyder said. "Or is it something about your genetics or your biology that makes you more prone to both preeclampsia and vascular dementia?"

Based on these findings, doctors should ask women whether they've had preeclampsia and promote therapies that could reduce their risk of both and other heart illnesses, Ray and Snyder said.

For example, these women could help themselves by eating right, exercising and taking medications to control their blood pressure as they age.

Ray suggested that "maintenance of a healthy weight along with pressure control are probably the two most doable and inexpensive approaches" to protecting heart and brain health in women who've had .

Snyder noted that this study adds to growing evidence that events earlier in your life can affect your risk of dementia decades later.

"It's never too early or too late to be thinking about our ," Snyder said. "We should be thinking about that in terms of our behaviors and our activities throughout our entire life."

Explore further: AHA: no direct link between preeclampsia and cognitive impairment, study finds

More information: Joel Ray, M.D., professor, medicine, University of Toronto; Heather Snyder, Ph.D., senior director, medical and scientific operations, Alzheimer's Association; Oct. 17, 2018, BMJ, online

Dayan et al. Impact of Preeclampsia on Long-Term Cognitive Function. Hypertension17 Oct 2018 2018;0 :HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.11320

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about vascular dementia.

Related Stories

AHA: no direct link between preeclampsia and cognitive impairment, study finds

October 17, 2018
While preeclampsia puts women at greater risk for stroke and high blood pressure following childbirth, a new study found that the pregnancy-related condition may not predispose them to significant cognitive impairment later ...

Pre-eclampsia linked to an increased risk of dementia later in life

October 17, 2018
Pre-eclampsia is associated with an increased risk of later dementia, particularly vascular dementia, caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels, finds a large study published by The BMJ today.

Women with high blood pressure during pregnancy more likely to develop CVD risk factors

July 2, 2018
Preeclampsia and gestational hypertension are common pregnancy complications involving high blood pressure that develops for the first time during pregnancy and returns to normal after delivery. Previous studies have shown ...

Stroke risk factors for pregnant women with preeclampsia uncovered

May 25, 2017
Women with preeclampsia, a common complication of pregnancy, face a heightened risk of stroke during pregnancy and postpartum if they have urinary tract infections, chronic high blood pressure, or clotting or bleeding disorders, ...

Pre-pregnancy heart abnormalities may predict recurrent preeclampsia risk

February 22, 2016
Women who had pregnancy-related high blood pressure multiple times had recognizable heart abnormalities between pregnancies that could help predict their risk for heart and blood vessel disease during subsequent pregnancies ...

Low-dose aspirin could help pregnant women with high blood pressure avoid a dangerous condition

May 25, 2018
A daily dose of aspirin could help pregnant women in the first stage of high blood pressure avoid a condition that puts both mother and baby in danger, according to a new study.

Recommended for you

Bullying and violence at work increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

November 19, 2018
People who are bullied at work or experience violence at work are at higher risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and stroke, according to the largest prospective study to investigate the ...

Genetic analysis links obesity with diabetes, coronary artery disease

November 16, 2018
A Cleveland Clinic genetic analysis has found that obesity itself, not just the adverse health effects associated with it, significantly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. The paper was published ...

Non-coding genetic variant could improve key vascular functions

November 15, 2018
Atherosclerotic disease, the slow and silent hardening and narrowing of the arteries, is a leading cause of mortality worldwide. It is responsible for more than 15 million deaths each year, including an estimated 610,000 ...

Study of two tribes sheds light on role of Western-influenced diet in blood pressure

November 14, 2018
A South American tribe living in near-total isolation with no Western dietary influences showed no increase in average blood pressure from age one to age 60, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Meditation and music may alter blood markers of cellular aging and Alzheimer's disease

November 13, 2018
A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer's ...

Heart failure patients shouldn't stop meds even if condition improves: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—There's bad news for heart failure patients with dilated cardiomyopathy who'd like to stop taking their meds.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 18, 2018
Following the advice of this article (google " How I Helped My Sister Cure Hypertension " ) for the last six months, I'm well on my way to being in the best health of my life. This is a must read for anyone with high blood pressure.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.