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Women with Pre-eclampsia May Have Greater Risk of Dementia by Dr. Smita Patel

Posted on 11/29/18 by Dina Anderson, AARP Blog Author

In recognition of November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, this is blog post #4 of 4 in my series, to highlight Alzheimer’s research and shed light on ways we can preserve our brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in Denmark recently reviewed a nationwide study to examine the relationship between pre-eclampsia (the onset of hypertension during pregnancy) and diagnosis of dementia later in life.

Subjects included all women in Denmark with at least one pregnancy lasting 20+ weeks. Researchers found that women with a history of pre-eclampsia had 3x greater risk of vascular dementia (dementia caused by impaired blood flow to the brain) compared to women without a history of pre-eclampsia. Interestingly, the authors note that BMI, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease were unlikely to explain the association.

I am not surprised by this research finding since unmanaged hypertension during midlife is already a well-established risk factor for vascular dementia– high blood pressures can narrow and damage the blood vessels in the brain. If you have a history of pre-eclampsia or current hypertension, make sure it’s controlled under the guidance of your primary care provider, and consider adopting other brain-healthy habits like regular exercise, lifelong learning, and a Mediterranean style diet. And if you’re concerned about your medical history, consider consulting with a neurologist who specializes in brain health; if you need help getting started, visit

Basil S, Wohlfahrt J, Boyd HA. BMJ. 2018 Oct 17;36


About the Author:

Smita Patel, DO, is a neurologist at NorthShore Neurological Institute and Director of the Center for Brain Health. Dr. Patel brings expertise in neurology and sleep along with complementary and integrative medicine to develop tailored health plans for her patients. She is board certified in neurology, sleep medicine and integrative medicine. Dr. Patel has participated in clinical research studies in the area of sleep medicine and has written book chapters for several academic publications on neurological disorders. She has a strong interest in researching the cause and treatment of neurological diseases as well as supporting and participating in educational programs. Dr. Patel directs a comprehensive team at the Center for Brain Health, and works with patients to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders, and to improve brain health. For more information, visit

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