The relation of blood pressure with cognitive function and dementia has, in recent years, received much attention from epidemiological research. Some cross-sectional studies have shown an inverse association between blood pressure and the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, whereas longitudinal studies yield mixed results that largely depend on the age at which blood pressure is measured and the time interval between blood pressure and outcome assessments. Some studies suggest that midlife high blood pressure is a risk factor for late-life cognitive impairment and dementia, and that low diastolic pressure and very high systolic pressure in older adults may be associated with subsequent development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Observational studies and randomised clinical trials provide limited evidence for a protective effect of antihypertensive therapy against dementia and stroke-related cognitive decline. Atherosclerosis resulting from long-standing hypertension, and cerebral hypoperfusion secondary to severe atherosclerosis and to low blood pressure may be major biological pathways linking both high blood pressure in midlife and low blood pressure in late-life to cognitive decline and dementia.