Blood Pressure Variability and Cognitive Function Among Older African Americans: Introducing a New Blood Pressure Variability Measure

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Abstract

Background:

Although blood pressure (BP) variability has been reported to be associated with cognitive impairment, whether this relationship affects African Americans has been unclear. We sought correlations between systolic and diastolic BP variability and cognitive function in community-dwelling older African Americans, and introduced a new BP variability measure that can be applied to BP data collected in clinical practice.

Methods:

We assessed cognitive function in 94 cognitively normal older African Americans using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Computer Assessment of Mild Cognitive Impairment (CAMCI). We used BP measurements taken at the patients’ three most recent primary care clinic visits to generate three traditional BP variability indices, range, standard deviation, and coefficient of variation, plus a new index, random slope, which accounts for unequal BP measurement intervals within and across patients.

Results:

MMSE scores did not correlate with any of the BP variability indices. Patients with greater diastolic BP variability were less accurate on the CAMCI verbal memory and incidental memory tasks. Results were similar across the four BP variability indices.

Conclusions:

In a sample of cognitively intact older African American adults, BP variability did not correlate with global cognitive function, as measured by the MMSE. However, higher diastolic BP variability correlated with poorer verbal and incidental memory. By accounting for differences in BP measurement intervals, our new BP variability index may help alert primary care physicians to patients at particular risk for cognitive decline.

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