Helen Levy photo

Cognitive ability and awareness of hypertension in older Americans

a MiCDA Pilot Project Description

Investigators: Helen Levy, Kenneth M. Langa

Funding: Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging, 2014-2015

Approximately 70% of Americans ages 65 and older have hypertension, but one quarter of them are unaware of it. Previous research using data from the 1999 through 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) has found that awareness of hypertension is significantly related to age, the number of times an individual has visited the doctor, and having a usual health care provider; large but statistically insignificant effects were also found for education, gender, marital status, and income. An important factor that has not yet been explored is whether cognitive ability affects awareness of hypertension. Are individuals with low cognitive ability less likely to be aware of their hypertension? Does having a spouse with good cognitive ability potentially buffer any negative effects of one's own limitations; and, conversely, are unmarried older people particularly vulnerable to any negative consequences of low cognition? Do differences in cognitive ability help to explain any racial, ethnic, and educational disparities in awareness of hypertension? Knowing the answers to these questions will help shed light on one mechanism through which racial and socioeconomic disparities in morbidity and longevity may be propagated, and will also help to target interventions aimed at mitigating these disparities.

Research Signature Themes:

Health and well-being in later life: Chronic Disease
Health and well-being in later life: Dementia and Cognitive Impairment