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Risk associated with high blood pressure, or hypertension, is well known. Researchers Cyrus Raji, M.D., PhD., and Oscar Lopez, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, have added one new danger—blood flow to the brain.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure blood flow to the brain the researchers studied a group of 88 older patients. Within the group were 20 Alzheimer’s disease patients, with an equal number of individuals with and without hypertension. The group of 20 patients with mild cognitive impairment were also evenly divided. The control groups consisted of normal individuals, 38 with hypertension and 10 without.

All of the individuals with hypertension showed a decrease of blood flow to the brain when compared to their counterparts who did not have hypertension. Alzheimer’s patients with hypertension showed substantially decreased blood flow to the brain. The control group of normal patients without hypertension showed the best blood flow to the brain.

Although hypertension is not considered the cause of Alzheimer’s disease the researchers feel that hypertension, treated or untreated, may contribute to the pathology of Alzheimer’s.