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A University of Michigan research team found there is no difference in cognitive decline between Hispanic and white individuals determined by cumulative systolic blood pressure, or the change over time in one’s blood pressure.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on Sept. 27, was led by Deborah Levine, U-M director of the Cognitive Health Services Research Program. In an interview with, Levine summarized the findings. 

“Our findings suggest that high blood pressure causes faster cognitive decline, and that taking hypertension medication slows the pace of that decline,” Levine said. 

The study demonstrated that there is a significant difference between the risk of cognitive decline disorders in Hispanic versus White individuals.  

“Some studies suggest older Hispanic individuals are 1.5 times more likely than older non-Hispanic White (White) individuals to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD) [2–5], though this varies by population,” The study said.

Recent studies suggested Hispanic individuals are more likely to experience co-occurrence of Alzheimer’s and cerebrovascular diseases. Although preventing dementia-related diseases leads to a better quality of life, Hispanic individuals with cognitive decline have treatment costs up to 35% higher than white individuals with cognitive decline.

The study highlighted that the older Hispanic population in the United States is projected to grow from 8% to 22%, making the reduction of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases a public health priority.

According to the results of Levine’s study, while there is a link between high blood pressure and cognitive decline, this association is not correlated with ethnic disparities found between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white groups. Levine told why the disparity is crucial to recognize and understand.

“Since other studies have shown that people of Hispanic heritage in the United States tend to have higher rates of uncontrolled hypertension than non-Hispanic white people, due in part to worse access to care, it’s vital that they get extra support to control their blood pressure even if blood pressure is only part of the picture when it comes to their higher dementia risk,” Levine said.

High blood pressure likely plays a crucial role in the risk of cognitive decline, and for the research team, it seemed like a potential point to continue the search for interventions to reduce cognitive decline and the risk of its occurrence.

When asked why the U-M research team believed this connection could explain the disparity between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white patients, Bruno Giordani — an author listed on the study as well as a professor of psychology in psychiatry, neurology, and psychology and associate director for Michigan’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center — explained the importance of comprehending cardiovascular risk factors.

“There is increasing interest in blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors and their relationship to cognitive decline,” Giordani said. “Heart and brain are closely linked, it seems. Are these basic brain changes in the structure of the brain, such as small bleeds or the like or something far more complex?” 

The study compares systolic blood pressure and cognitive decline between non-Hispanic white individuals and Hispanic individuals through a pooled cohort analysis of six other studies. Each group’s systolic blood pressure, and the researchers compared the results.

U-M researchers found that Hispanic individuals have significantly lower scores in several areas of cognition, as well as significantly slower declines over time. However, the differences in systolic blood pressure between the two groups did not explain the contrasts in cognitive decline. 

“We found no evidence that cumulative mean systolic blood pressure differences explained differences in cognitive decline between Hispanic and white individuals,” the study read. 

Public Health senior Fatema Dohadwala explained why the study is integral for understanding how to reduce risk disparities between racial and ethnic groups through future treatment and intervention plans.

“Studies like this one highlight the importance of conducting research comparing health in racial and ethnic minorities,” Dohadwala said. “Such research can guide medical professionals to take into consideration demographic factors, like ethnicity, when treating patients in order to better treat those who may be at higher risk for certain conditions.” 

Daily News Contributor Sneha Dhandapani can be reached at