Literature Review

Hypertension may double the risk of late-onset epilepsy



‘Welcome addition’

In a joint comment, Hedley C.A. Emsley, PhD, professor of clinical neuroscience, Lancaster (England) University, and Jasmine Wall, MBBChir, academic clinical fellow in neurology, Lancaster University, described the study as a “welcome addition to this field,” noting that the Framingham Heart Study “lends itself well to an embedded observational study of this nature of late-onset epilepsy.”

Dr. Emsley and Dr. Wall, who were not involved in the research, said that the “apparent magnitude of increased late-onset epilepsy risk association with hypertension in the Stefanidou et al study is quite striking,” even allowing for the “relatively small sample size,” since their analysis and findings appear to “withstand exclusion of individuals who became normotensive on antihypertensive treatment.”

They noted that in recent years there has been a growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of hypertension in late-onset epilepsy epileptogenesis with subclinical cerebrovascular diseases, including “otherwise occult cerebral small vessel disease believed to be a frequent cause.”

The mechanisms “remain unclear,” but they could potentially include diffuse cerebral microangiopathy, structural and physiological changes, and/or blood-brain barrier dysfunction and leakage, they suggested.

“Although there is no current consensus over an age threshold that defines ‘late onset,’ we would argue that age thresholds used in such studies of late-onset epilepsy should be lower, to avoid missing younger adults at risk through vascular mechanisms,” Dr. Emsley and Dr. Wall added.

The study authors suggest that “potential pathophysiologic mechanisms can further be explored in future experimental studies and clinical trials.”

This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and Finding a Cure for Epilepsy/Seizures. Dr. Stefanidou disclosed relevant financial relationships. Dr. Emsley and Dr. Wall disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on


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