Researchers Find That Hypertension Increases Brain Damage Risk with Age

December 2, 2020 11:05:38

A research study conducted by Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia clinical research fellow Dr. Karolina Wartolowska investigated the presence of white matter hyperintensities in the brain. These hyperintensities usually highlight small blood vessels that may be damaged and that manifest on MRI scans as bright regions. This damage is said to increase with blood pressure and age; the damage is linked to a decrease in cognitive function and an increased risk of depression, physical disabilities, dementia and stroke.

The study involved 37,041 individuals enrolled in the UK Biobank. A huge chunk of the participants was recruited from the general population and were aged between 40–69. The availability of medical information, e.g., MRI brain scans, was also a factor. The study findings show that there was a strong link between brain damage past the age of 50 and the diastolic blood pressure before people hit age 50. This applies even when the diastolic blood pressure is within a healthy range.

Wartolowska explains that while these changes do not occur in all aging individuals, many people who are older than 80 years and may not have high blood pressure as well as more than 50% of individuals over age 65 are still at risk. The intensities are, however, more likely to develop if an individual has high blood pressure, at which point, they become severe.

The participants’ information had been collected previously between March 2006 and October 2010 when the individuals registered in the UK Biobank. Other data, inclusive of the scans, was acquired between August 2014 and October 2019. The information used in the study had been adjusted by the researchers, taking into consideration the individual’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure, sex and age, as well as risk factors such as diabetes and smoking.

The researchers then analyzed the white matter intensities (WMH) load in all individuals and found that a bigger WMH load was linked to previous diastolic blood pressure, especially for participants under age 50. Any increase in blood pressure was connected to an increase in the white matter intensities, particularly for individuals who were taking medication for high blood pressure.

The researchers also discovered that the diastolic blood pressure of individuals in their 40s and 50s was linked to considerable brain damage later in life. This makes diastolic blood pressure, as well as systolic blood pressure, an important factor in the prevention of brain-tissue damage. Wartolowska adds that while many individuals think that stroke and hypertension are old-people diseases, research shows that if individuals would like to keep their brains healthy into their 70s, they may need to ensure that their blood pressure, inclusive of one’s diastolic blood pressure, remains in a healthy range when they are in their 40s and 50s.

Speaking of high blood pressure, a number of biotech companies have devoted their efforts toward helping patients with chronic noncommunicable diseases, such as hypertension. An example is DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO), which is famous for its smartphone-based, customized, chronic disease-management software that helps patients make lasting changes to their lifestyle.

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