Having High Blood Pressure During Your 30s Is Linked To Decreased Brain Health Later In Life, According To New Research

For the study, the researchers used data from 427 participants– which was collected via the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR) and the Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experience (KHANDLE) study.

This allowed the team to access health data from a diverse group of adults between 1964 and 1985.

More specifically, the researchers obtained two different blood pressure readings taken when each participant was between the age of 30 and 40.

This helped the team determine what patients were hypertensive or had normal blood pressure during young adulthood.

Then, the patients MRI scans– which were conducted from 2017 to 2022– allowed the team to search for late-life biomarkers of white matter integrity and neurodegeneration.

It was at this point that a significant reduction of cerebral gray matter volume was observed among both women and men with hypertension. Although, this was still stronger among men.

So, compared to individuals with normal blood pressure, the participants with high blood pressure or transitioning to high blood pressure showed lower frontal cortex volume, cerebral gray matter volume, and fractional anisotropy– or brain connectivity measure.

Now, the researchers did note that because of the limited sample size, they were unable to examine ethnic and racial differences. The team also pointed out how MRI data was only collected at one time during the participants’ late life.

This means that the study was only able to determine volumetric differences and could not point to distinct evidence of neurodegeneration over a certain time period.

Despite that, the team is still confident that the study underscores concerns that cardiovascular risk factors during young adulthood are extremely damaging to brain health later in life.

“This study truly demonstrates the importance of early life risk factors, and that to age well, you need to take care of yourself through life. Heart health is brain health,” concluded Rachel Whitmer, the study’s senior author.

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