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Health & FitHigh blood pressure could make your brain shrink over time, according to new research

23:40  21 august  2019
23:40  21 august  2019 Source:   msn.com

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High blood pressure could make your brain shrink over time, according to new research© Matt Cardy/GettyImages
  • Increasing blood pressure in middle age may lead to a smaller brain and greater risk of cerebral disease, a new study has found.
  • Those with a high blood pressure in their 40s, or with a higher increase in their late 30s and 40s, were found to be most at risk.
  • Although more research is needed, these findings could help scientists better understand when people are most vulnerable to behaviors that harm their long-term brain health, and how to prevent dementia and stroke later in life.

Your blood pressure could actually be shrinking your brain, according to new research.

A study published in The Lancet Neurology has found that dementia-free adults who had high blood pressure in their 40s had smaller brains, by overall volume, when they reached their 70s. Brain volume is a common indicator of neurological health and has been studied to help understand the cause of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline among the elderly.

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The study, conducted by researchers from University College London, included 502 people from Britain, now ages 69 to 71, who were part of a lifelong study group. The researchers looked at the participants' blood pressure measurements over time, beginning at age 36 and continuing into their 60s. They found that more rapid increases in blood pressure in middle age led to greater changes in brain health, specifically a smaller brain, later in life.

Participants with high blood pressure in their 40s, or a significant increase in blood pressure through their 30s, were also found to be more likely to have blood vessel damage in the brain, increasing the risk of stroke, according to the research, published Tuesday and funded by Alzheimer's Research UK.

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Controlling blood pressure may help ward off dementia Keeping your blood pressure under control "may be a key to your future brain health," researchers say

High blood pressure, particularly among middle-age people, has long been linked to risk of dementia and other types of cognitive decline, but it's not entirely clear how it works since the "midlife" period, from 40 to 60, has been so broadly defined.

By using a lifelong study group of participants similar in age, this research is the first of its kind to track how blood pressure changes over time can lead to better or worse brain health later on.

Blood pressure could affect brain health beginning as young as 36

The research found greater increases in blood pressure between age 36 to 43 were linked to a smaller brain volume, adjusting for gender and lifestyle factors such as smoking and socioeconomical status.

But the most significant risk of smaller brain volume was found when blood pressure increased between ages 43 and 53, suggesting that this could be a critical time for long-term brain health. And the more rapid increases in blood pressure, the more significant the changes in brain size and increased risk of blood vessel diseases.

Tips for lowering blood pressure, which may cut dementia risk

Tips for lowering blood pressure, which may cut dementia risk A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found a link between high blood pressure and dementia . About one in three American adults have high blood pressure and Dr. Tara Narula says bringing that number down could potentially bring down the number of people suffering from dementia."Dementia affects about 10% of Americans over 65," Narula told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "We don't have a lot of great treatments or preventative measures. And a lot of people don't know that hypertension or high blood pressure can be associated with future risk of dementia.

In addition to a smaller overall brain size, greater increases in blood pressure during middle age had a smaller hippocampus in their 70s. The hippocampus is an area of the brain associated with memory formation and learning, according to Jonathan Schott, co-author of the study and professor at University College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

"The findings suggest that blood pressure even in our 30s could have a knock-on effect on brain health four decades later ... blood pressure monitoring and interventions aimed at maximizing brain health later in life need to be targeted at least by early midlife," he said in a press release.

Many factors influence brain health

The study also tested for levels of a protein called amyloid, associated with Alzheimer's. Although all of the participants had some level it in their brains, researchers didn't find a connection between that and blood pressure levels.

The researchers also acknowledged that genetics could explain the correlation between brain size and high blood pressure.

High Blood Pressure in 30s Linked to Poor Brain Health Decades Later, Dementia Study Suggests

High Blood Pressure in 30s Linked to Poor Brain Health Decades Later, Dementia Study Suggests High blood pressure in a person's mid-30s has been linked to poor brain health decades later, according to scientists trying to find ways to prevent conditions such as dementia. © Getty A stock image of a patient receiving a blood pressure test. Researchers looked at data on 5,362 people who signed up to the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development study. The participants were born in 1946 in the U.K. in the same week, and were evaluated 28 times from childhood. This included giving blood pressure measurements from the age of 36.

Although none of the participants showed any cognitive damage, the study is an important step in understanding how blood pressure plays a major role in overall brain health and risk of serious illnesses like dementia among the elderly, said Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK, in a press release. It also points the way toward how we could potentially address the issue, she explained.

"High blood pressure in midlife is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that is in our control to easily monitor and manage," she said in the release. "Research is already suggesting that more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure in recent years could be improving the brain health of today's older generations."

The American Heart Association has noted that high blood pressure is increasingly a problem, especially in the U.S., but can be managed through lifestyle changes - cutting back on salt, alcohol, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet are all strategies the association recommends. A blood pressure reading less than 120/80 is considered normal.

Additional funders of the study included Medical Research Council, Dementias Platform UK, Wellcome Trust, Brain Research UK, Wolfson Foundation, Weston Brain Institute, Avid Radiopharmaceuticals

Gallery: 25 Effective Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally (Provided by Best Life)

High blood pressure could make your brain shrink over time, according to new research
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