High blood pressure in early adulthood linked to worse brain health in later life

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A new study has found that high blood pressure in early adulthood (ages 30 to 40) is associated with worse brain health around age 75, particularly in men.

The findings suggest that managing blood pressure in early life may be crucial for maintaining brain health in later years.

The Study

The research, led by Kristen M. George, an assistant professor in the public health sciences department at the University of California, Davis, was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

It involved comparing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of older adults who had high blood pressure in their 30s and 40s with those of older adults who maintained normal blood pressure during the same period.

The high blood pressure group demonstrated significantly lower regional brain volumes and worse white matter integrity—factors associated with dementia.

Moreover, the negative changes in certain brain regions, like decreased grey matter volume and frontal cortex volume, were found to be more pronounced in men.

This could potentially be due to the protective benefits of estrogen in women before menopause.

The study used data from the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences (KHANDLE) study and the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR), providing a diverse cohort of older Asian, Black, Latino, and white adults.

Hypertension and Dementia

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a well-established risk factor for dementia. This study highlights the significance of hypertension status in early adulthood for brain health decades later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 47% of adults in the United States have hypertension, with rates varying by sex and race.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The research supports the growing body of evidence suggesting that cardiovascular risk factors in young adulthood can harm brain health in later life.

It underscores the importance of managing hypertension and maintaining heart health from an early age as crucial factors in promoting healthy brain aging.

However, the authors caution that due to the sample size, they couldn’t examine racial and ethnic differences in detail and recommend interpreting results regarding sex differences with caution.

Furthermore, the MRI data was only available from one time-point later in life, limiting the ability to track neurodegeneration over time.

The researchers express their interest in continuing to follow these participants to gather more insights about early-life factors contributing to healthy brain aging in late life.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about how diets could help lower high blood pressure, and 3 grams of omega-3s a day keep high blood pressure at bay.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that beetroot juice could help reduce blood pressure, and results showing cinnamon could help lower high blood pressure.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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