blood pressure can damage specific brain parts, study finds

Credit: National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

In a new study, researchers have discovered specific regions of the brain that are damaged by high blood pressure and may lead to cognitive decline and the development of dementia.

High blood pressure has been linked to brain dysfunction, but the exact regions of the brain affected were unknown until now.

The study utilized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of brains, genetic analyses, and observational data from thousands of patients to investigate the impact of high blood pressure on cognitive function.

Researchers found areas of the brain, such as the putamen and specific white matter regions, that were affected by increases in blood pressure, leading to memory loss, thinking skills, and dementia.

The team used genetic information and a technique called Mendelian randomization to determine if high blood pressure was the cause of changes to specific parts of the brain, rather than simply being associated with these changes.

Changes to nine parts of the brain were related to higher blood pressure and worse cognitive function, including the putamen and regions of white matter that connect and enable signaling between different parts of the brain.

These changes included decreases in brain volume, changes to connections between different parts of the brain, and changes in measures of brain activity.

High blood pressure affects about 30% of people worldwide, with an additional 30% showing the initial stages of the disease.

The study offers potential ways to treat cognitive impairment in people with high blood pressure by studying the genes and proteins in these brain structures and may help predict who will develop memory loss and dementia faster in the context of high blood pressure.

The study is significant because it identifies specific places in the brain that are potentially causally associated with high blood pressure and cognitive impairment.

This helps to identify people at risk of cognitive decline in the earliest stages and could lead to more effective therapies in the future.

One of the limitations of the study is that participants in the UK Biobank study were mainly white and middle-aged, so it might not be possible to extrapolate the findings to older people.

Further studies are required to determine precise causal pathways and relevant brain regions.

In conclusion, this study offers new insights into the damaging effects of high blood pressure on the brain and highlights the importance of identifying those at risk of cognitive decline at the earliest stages.

With the potential to develop new therapies, the study provides hope for those affected by high blood pressure-related cognitive impairment.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition where the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is given as two numbers: systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number).

Normal blood pressure is around 120/80 mm Hg, but hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure reading consistently at or above 130/80 mm Hg.

Hypertension can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and cognitive impairment. It is a common condition, affecting approximately one in three adults worldwide.

Risk factors for hypertension include a family history of high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, stress, and a diet high in salt and processed foods.

Treatment for hypertension may include lifestyle changes such as exercise, weight loss, and a healthy diet, as well as medication to lower blood pressure.

It is important to manage hypertension effectively to reduce the risk of serious health complications. Regular blood pressure checks are recommended for all adults, especially those with risk factors for hypertension.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies that most widely used high blood pressure drug may harm heart health, and coconut sugar could help reduce blood pressure and artery stiffness.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that drinking tea could help lower blood pressure, and results showing plant-based foods could benefit people with high blood pressure.

The study was conducted by Tomasz J Guzik et al and published in European Heart Journal.

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