High BP in men in their 30s linked with dementia risk in their 70s

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New Delhi, April 9

Having high blood pressure in your 30s is associated with worse brain health around age 75 like high dementia risk, especially for men, a new study has revealed.

The research, published in JAMA Network Open, found that the high blood pressure group had significantly lower regional brain volumes and worse white matter integrity. Both factors are associated with dementia.

The researchers from University of California-Davis Health compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of older adults who had high blood pressure between the ages of 30 to 40 with older adults who had normal blood pressure.

The research also showed that the negative brain changes in some regions -- such as decreased grey matter volume and frontal cortex volume -- were stronger in men.

The differences may be related to the protective benefits of estrogen before menopause.

"Treatment for dementia is extremely limited, so identifying modifiable risk and protective factors over the life course is key to reducing disease burden," said Kristen M. George, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

High blood pressure is an incredibly common and treatable risk factor associated with dementia.

"This study indicates hypertension status in early adulthood is important for brain health decades later," George added.

Compared to participants with normal blood pressure, the brain scans of those transitioning to high blood pressure or with high blood pressure showed lower cerebral gray matter volume, frontal cortex volume and fractional anisotropy (a measure of brain connectivity).

The scores for men with high blood pressure were lower than those for women.

The study joins a growing body of evidence that cardiovascular risk factors in young adulthood are detrimental to late-life brain health.

"This study truly demonstrates the importance of early life risk factors, and that to age well, you need to take care of yourself throughout life -- heart health is brain health," said Rachel Whitmer, senior author of the study.

--IANS

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