Researchers also found that the number of brain lesions did not change even if participants used high blood pressure drugs.
They analysed 1,288 older people and found that participants whose blood pressure was 10 per cent higher than average were 46 per cent more likely to have brain lesions.
The pensioners with higher blood pressure were also found to have brains “nine years older” than their peers.
Two-thirds of the participants had a history of high blood pressure, and 87 per cent were taking high blood pressure medication.
Blood pressure was documented yearly until they died – an average of eight years later.
Brain autopsies revealed 48 per cent of participants had one or more brain infarct lesions.
The team found that those with a higher blood pressure had a 46 per cent greater chance of having large lesions and a 36 per cent greater risk of very small lesions.
The study, published by the American Academy of Neurology, also found that people with declining blood pressure were more at risk of brain lesions.
Study author Professor Zoe Arvanitakis, of Rush University Medical Centre in the US, said: “Blood pressure changes with aging and disease, so we wanted to see what kind of impact it may have on the brain.
“We researched whether blood pressure in later life was associated with signs of brain ageing that include plaques and tangles linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and brain lesions called infarcts which can increase with age, often go undetected and can lead to stroke.”
She added: “While our findings may eventually have important public health implications for blood pressure recommendations for older people, further studies will be needed to confirm and expand on our findings.”
LIVING near parks and trees can slow down the decline in thought processes as people grow older, a study has suggested.
Green spaces are already known to be beneficial for children and for overall mental health.
But now researchers say they might also play a positive role in arresting the decline in cognitive function among the elderly.
The study team monitored 6,500 people aged 45 to 68 in the UK over 10 years, estimating how much green space they were exposed to from satellite imagery.
At three different points in the study, the participants completed a series of cognitive tests that assessed their verbal and mathematical reasoning, verbal fluency and short-term memory.
The team found the loss of function was 4.6 per cent smaller among those who lived near parks, fields or woods, with women performing better than men.
Carmen de Keijzer, who led the study at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, said: “There is evidence that the risk for dementia and cognitive decline can be affected by exposure to urban-related environmental hazards such as air pollution and noise.
“In contrast, living near green spaces has been proposed to increase physical activity and social support, reduce stress, and mitigate exposure to air pollution and noise.”
The results of the study were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.