Why this blood pressure number is so important for brain health

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When we visit the doctor, one of the routine checks involves measuring blood pressure, giving us two crucial numbers.

Traditionally, medical professionals have emphasized the first number, the systolic blood pressure, for assessing heart disease risk.

However, recent research from the University of Miami, spearheaded by Michelle R. Caunca, highlights the significance of the second number, the diastolic blood pressure, especially concerning our brain health.

Understanding these numbers is key. The systolic pressure, the first number, indicates the force your heart exerts while beating, pushing blood through the arteries.

The diastolic pressure, the second number, reflects the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. It’s commonly accepted that the higher number plays a more critical role in evaluating the risk of heart-related diseases.

Yet, this new study shifts focus to the diastolic pressure, exploring its connection to brain health, specifically the presence of white matter lesions which are associated with an increased risk of dementia, stroke, and falls.

The study involved 1,205 participants aged 50 and above, using MRI scans to identify white matter lesions in their brains. These lesions disrupt the brain’s messaging system, affecting muscle movement, sensation, and cognitive functions.

Interestingly, the research found that individuals with lower diastolic blood pressure (under 80) had fewer brain scars than those with higher diastolic pressure (over 90).

This challenges the conventional focus on high blood pressure, particularly systolic pressure, in relation to brain health.

White matter consists of nerve fibers that facilitate communication throughout the brain. Lesions in this matter can significantly impair cognitive and physical functioning.

As we age, the likelihood of developing these lesions increases; by the age of 60, up to 20% of individuals may have them, with the prevalence rising sharply in older age groups.

The study also uncovered that the location of these lesions varies depending on the affected blood vessels. Notably, lesions in the periventricular region, situated around the brain’s ventricles, were closely linked to cognitive impairments.

This finding emphasizes the potential impact of blood pressure management on specific brain areas critical to thinking and memory.

This research underscores the importance of monitoring blood pressure, including the diastolic number, not just for heart health but also for maintaining brain function.

It suggests that keeping an eye on the lower number could play a vital role in preventing cognitive decline and other related health issues as we age.

In light of these findings, it becomes crucial for individuals to understand their blood pressure readings fully and engage in discussions with their healthcare providers about the best strategies for maintaining optimal brain health through effective blood pressure management.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

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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