HYPERTENSTION, HYPOSHARP. Another good reason to stay on top of your blood pressure readings: High blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults of all ages is associated with a measurable decline in cognitive function, University of Maine researchers conclude.

In a report appearing in the online edition of the journal Hypertension, the authors say younger people (ages 18 to 47) performed at a higher cognitive level than older individuals (48 to 83). But even the young ones showed blood pressure-related decline in cognitive function over time.

The study extends what has been viewed as a problem of the elderly to younger people, the authors say, and emphasizes the importance of reducing high blood pressure even in younger adults.

TAI CHI FOR THE HEART Tai chi, a mind-body movement therapy with origins in Chinese martial and healing arts, may be a beneficial adjunct to standard therapy for heart failure, a paper published in the American Journal of Medicine concludes.

Tai chi differs from conventional workouts because it includes meditative elements in addition to non-strenuous, low-impact physical efforts. In this study, a group of randomly assigned patients attended one-hour classes twice weekly for 12 weeks, in addition to standard pharmacologic therapy, dietary counseling and standard exercise advice. The control group followed only the standard guidelines.

Gloria Y. Yeh, of the Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School, writes that tai chi "enhanced the quality of life and functional capacity" in patients with chronic heart failure. The tai chi group also showed improvements in a blood marker suggesting improved heart function.

It is not clear which aspect of tai chi is responsible, experts cautioned. In an editorial in the same issue of the journal, researchers from the University of Vermont suggest that while the observed improvements may relate to physical aspects of the tai chi program, they also could be rooted in psychological effects. The tai chi group also may have benefited from the regular contact with instructors.

LITTLE KIDS, TREADMILLS: BAD COMBO Researchers reviewing federal data covering 1996 through 2000 said there is a rising trend of children under 5 being injured by home treadmills. The most common injuries included abrasions, contusions, lacerations and burns. Ninety percent of the injuries involved arms, forearms, wrist, hands and fingers.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports