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High Blood Pressure Can Damage Brain in Early Middle Age

Posted Dec 09 2012 10:09pm
Posted on Dec. 7, 2012, 6 a.m. in Blood Pressure Brain and Mental Performance

Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is associated with a 62% risk of cerebrovascular disease, such as ischemic stroke, and a 49% risk of cardiovascular disease.  Earlier studies have identified associations between elevated blood pressure and a heightened risk of brain injury and atrophy leading to reduced cognitive performance and a greater likelihood of dementia, making hypertension an important, modifiable risk factor for late-life cognitive decline.  Charles deCarli, from University of California/Davis (California, USA), and colleagues report that uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the brain's structure and function as early as young middle-age, and even the brains of middle-aged people who clinically would not be considered to have hypertension have evidence of silent structural brain damage.    The investigation found accelerated brain aging among hypertensive and prehypertensive individuals in their 40s, including damage to the structural integrity of the brain's white matter and the volume of its gray matter, lending the study authors to warn that: “Our results suggest that subtle vascular brain injury develops insidiously during life, with discernible effects even in young adults. These findings emphasise the need for early and optimum control of blood pressure.”

Maillard P, Seshadri S, Beiser A, Himali JJ, Au R, Fletcher E, Carmichael O, Wolf PA, Decarli C. “Effects of systolic blood pressure on white-matter integrity in young adults in the Framingham Heart Study: a cross-sectional study.” Lancet Neurol. 2012 Dec;11(12):1039-47.

  
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