MRI brain scans of older individuals aged 30 to 40 years with hypertension were compared to those of older individuals with normal blood pressure.
It was discovered that the hypertension group had poorer integrity of white matter and a significant reduction in regional brain volumes. Both of these factors are linked to dementia.
It was also revealed that the negative changes in some areas of the brain such as frontal cortex volume and reduced grey matter volume were more pronounced in men. The differences could be connected to estrogen’s protective benefits before menopause.
Dementia treatment is very limited, so finding protective and modifiable risk factors throughout life is vital for reducing the burden of disease.
Hypertension is a very common risk factor linked to dementia and is also very treatable. This study suggests hypertension in early adulthood is significant for brain health many years later.
Hypertension is when blood pressure is higher than normal. Normal blood pressure levels are under 130/80 mmHg. The CDC estimates that 47% of individuals in the US suffer from hypertension.
The rate of hypertension can vary by race and sex. Approximately 50% of men suffer from hypertension in comparison to 44% of women. The hypertension rate is approximately 39% in Hispanic individuals, 46% in Asian individuals, 48% in white individuals, and 56% in Black individuals. African Americans between the ages of 35 and 64 are 50% more likely to have hypertension compared to whites.
Data were looked at from 427 individuals who had participated in the KHANDLE and the STAR studies. This provided health information from 1964 to 1985 for a varied group of older Black, Asian, White, and Latino individuals.
When the individuals were aged 30 to 40 years, 2 blood pressure readings were obtained to establish if they had normal blood pressure, transitioning to hypertensive, or had been hypertensive in young adulthood.
MRI scans of the individuals carried out between 2017 and 2022 looked for late-life neurodegeneration biomarkers and integrity of white matter.
A significant decrease in cerebral gray matter volume was observed in both women and men with hypertension but was more pronounced in men.
In comparison to individuals having normal blood pressure, the scans of the brains of individuals with hypertension or those transitioning to hypertension revealed reduced frontal cortex volume, reduced cerebral gray matter volume, and fractional anisotropy (a brain connectivity measure). The scores for men with hypertension were lower compared to those for women.
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