(HealthDay News) – Men born of mothers who were hypertensive in pregnancy have lower cognitive abilities and greater cognitive decline in old age, according to a study published online Oct 3 in Neurology.

To examine whether maternal hypertensive disorders in pregnancy predict age-related change in cognitive ability in offspring, Soile Tuovinen, from the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and colleagues identified normotensive or hypertensive pregnancies in mothers of 398 men, who participated in the Helsinki Birth Cohort 1934–1944 Study. The men underwent the Finnish Defence Forces basic ability test at age 20.1 years and then again at age 68.5 years.

The researchers found that men born after pregnancies complicated by a hypertensive disorder scored 4.36 points lower on total cognitive ability at 68.5 years and exhibited greater decline in total cognitive ability (2.88) after 20.1 years, compared with men born after normotensive pregnancies. In subscore analysis, the correlations were strongest for arithmetic reasoning.

“Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy predict lower cognitive ability and greater cognitive decline over decades in the adult offspring,” the authors write. “A propensity to lower cognitive ability and greater cognitive decline may have its origins in fetal life.”

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