Blood pressure and brain health: a strong connection

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Scientists from the University of Miami have found that diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number in a blood pressure reading, might be crucial in determining a person’s likelihood of having brain scars, which could be a sign of dementia, stroke, or susceptibility to falls.

Blood Pressure Basics

Blood pressure is typically represented as two numbers: systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure indicates the pressure exerted by a person’s blood against their artery walls during a heartbeat.

Diastolic blood pressure, on the other hand, refers to the pressure against the artery walls while the heart is at rest between beats.

A diastolic blood pressure reading of 80 or higher is considered high blood pressure, according to guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (AHA).

Traditionally, the systolic blood pressure (the top number) is considered the best indicator of a person’s overall risk for heart disease.

The Study

In their research, the scientists sought to explore the connection between blood pressure readings and the presence and location of white matter lesions in the brain.

Analyzing data from 1,205 men and women aged 50 and older, they found that those with lower diastolic blood pressure had fewer white matter lesions, as detected by MRI scans, compared to those with higher diastolic blood pressure.

It has been established by previous research that individuals with high systolic blood pressure are more likely to have narrowed arteries, leading to these white matter lesions.

However, this study found that individuals with diastolic blood pressure lower than 80 had smaller white matter lesions in three regions of the brain, as seen on MRI, compared to those with diastolic blood pressure over 90.

What are White Matter Lesions?

White matter in the brain comprises nerve fibers responsible for transmitting messages to and from the brain.

These messages play a critical role in muscle movement, sensation, and thinking. White matter lesions can disrupt this communication, increasing the risk of falls.

These lesions also escalate the risk of stroke and cognitive impairments.

As per an AHA scientific statement, between 10% and 20% of individuals have white matter lesions by the age of 60, and this is observed in most adults over the age of 90.

Implications and Conclusion

The research team noted that different regions of the brain are supplied by different vessels, and certain diseases impact these regions in various ways.

The correlation with periventricular white matter lesions is particularly important because these lesions are more strongly associated with cognitive issues.

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that highlights the importance of regular blood pressure checks.

It emphasizes the need to consult with a healthcare provider to identify the best treatment options. The study, led by Michelle R. Caunca, was published in the journal Stroke.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about unhealthy habits that could increase high blood pressure risk, and people with severe high blood pressure should reduce coffee intake.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

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