Women who develop gestational hypertension – high blood pressure during pregnancy – may have decreased cognitive abilities later in life, according to a recent report.

The study in neurology included 115 women with a history of gestational hypertension between 2002 and 2006. They measured their mental agility an average of 15 years later using well-validated tests of verbal language proficiency, processing speed, memory and visual skills. They then compared their results with those of 481 women whose blood pressure remained normal during their pregnancy.

After checking ethnicity, educational level, pre-pregnancy BMI, and other factors, they found that women who were hypertensive during pregnancy had significantly lower scores on working memory and verbal learning tests than women whose blood pressure was normal .

The lead author, Dr. Maria C. Adank, a researcher at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, pointed out that the effect was mainly driven by 70 percent of the women in the study who had only mild hypertension – scores above 140/90 – and not the 30 percent who had preeclampsia, the extremely high blood pressure that, if left untreated, can lead to organ damage and death in both mothers and babies.

“These are women with only mildly high blood pressure. You are healthy. But even by the age of 45, they were affecting your cognition, ”she said. “You and your doctors should be aware of the risk and should be followed up. We believe that high blood pressure persists beyond pregnancy and should be treated. “