High blood pressure in pregnancy may be tied to lower IQ in child: study

Oct. 3, 2012, 4:05 p.m.

A recent study found that men whose mothers had high blood pressure during pregnancy scored lower on tests than men whose mothers had normal blood pressure. (Bryan Costin/Flickr Creative Commons)

Need another reason to keep your blood pressure in check? Here's one for pregnant moms: Not doing so could affect your kid's IQ in her or his old age – and not in a good way.

New research in Neurology looked at a mother's blood pressure in pregnancy for nearly 400 men and tested the men's thinking ability twice: once at age 20 and again around age 69. Tests focused on language and math skills, as well as visual and spatial relationships.

Researchers in Finland reviewed the blood pressure readings of 398 pregnant women who were part of a health study from 1934 to 1944. They also reviewed the scores of intelligence tests given to the sons of those women, once when the men were 20 and again when they were 68. The men whose mothers had what the Finnish researchers described as a “hypertensive disorder” tended to score lower on the tests, both at age 20 and at age 68.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest statistics on high blood pressure on Tuesday, which are similar to another data set it recently authored. Among other findings, authors wrote that nearly 29 percent of Americans have the condition, and about 18 percent of them don't know it.

According to the CDC, the condition is most common among folks older than 60 and black people.

One positive note from the report: The number of people who have their high blood pressure under control increased about 5 percent since the last time the CDC surveyed the country.

Besides possibly affecting the future IQ of pregnant women's children, high blood pressure can be a risk factor in conditions like heart disease, heart failure, heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

Dr. Jeffrey Brettler, the chief of internal medicine and assistant area medical director at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, told OnCentral in September that anyone who doesn't know whether or not their blood pressure is high ought to get tested.

If you're unsure where you can get tested, start with OnCentral's directory of places that provide low-cost medical care.

Photo by Bryan Costin via Flickr Creative Commons.

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