Orthostatic hypotension and cognitive function: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Neuroepidemiology. 2010;34(1):1-7. doi: 10.1159/000255459. Epub 2009 Nov 5.


Background: To examine the association between orthostatic hypotension (OH) and cognitive function in middle-aged adults.

Methods: Participants were 12,702 men and women from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. OH was defined as decrease in systolic blood pressure (BP) by > or =20 mm Hg or diastolic BP by > or =10 mm Hg upon standing. At the 2nd and the 4th follow-up examinations, cognitive function was assessed using the Delayed Word Recall Test, Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) and Word Fluency Test (WFT).

Results: After age adjustment, those with OH were more likely to be in the lowest quintile of the DSST (OR = 1.34, 95% CI = 1.12-1.62) and WFT (OR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.03-1.51) than were those without OH. After adjustment for sociodemographic and cardiovascular risk factors, associations were no longer significant. In age-adjusted models only, OH was associated with increased odds of being in the greatest quintile of decline in DSST score between visits 2 and 4 (OR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.04-1.58).

Conclusions: OH was associated with less favorable cognitive function, but this association was largely attributable to demographic and cardiovascular risk factors. Episodic asymptomatic hypotension in middle age may not be an independent cause of cognitive decline. Further study, including emphasis on neuroimaging, is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / diagnosis
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Posture
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States