High blood pressure may affect the brains of some children and teens, a new study suggests.
Researchers assessed the cognitive (thinking) abilities of 150 youngsters. The kids were between the ages of 10 and 18 years. Half of the kids were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure, while the other half had normal blood pressure.
The researchers compared the groups and found that children with high blood pressure scored lower on tests of visual and verbal memory, processing speed and verbal skills than those without high blood pressure.
But while the children with high blood pressure (hypertension) had lower scores on the tests, the differences were small. And the investigators emphasized that all of the children’s scores fell within normal ranges. No children were found to be obviously impaired in thinking or memory, the researchers said.
The study also found that more children with sleep issues had high blood pressure, suggesting that poor sleep may have had an effect on thinking tests.
And the study only found an association between high blood pressure and thinking abilities in children.
The findings appear Sept. 29 in The Journal of Pediatrics.
“In the future, we want to better understand if there are physical changes to the brain in children who have hypertension that could explain these cognitive test results,” study author Dr. Marc Lande said in a journal news release. Lande is the fellowship director in pediatric nephrology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y.
The researchers said understanding these brain changes could be important for future studies on whether high blood pressure treatments might improve thinking abilities in children with the condition. Studies might also look at whether high blood pressure treatment could prevent or improve thinking problems when those youngsters become adults, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about high blood pressure in children.