A new study conducted by researchers at UC Davis has found that having high blood pressure during your 30s is linked to worse brain health at age 75.
This finding and more were uncovered after the team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans to compare two groups– older adults who had high blood pressure between ages 30 and 40, as well as older adults who had normal blood pressure during their 30s.
The comparison revealed that those with higher blood pressure during their 30s had drastically lower regional brain volumes, as well as weakened white matter integrity. Both of these factors are also related to dementia.
“Treatment for dementia is extremely limited, so identifying modifiable risk and protective factors over the life course is key to reducing disease burden,” explained Kristen M. George, the study’s first author.
“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.”
On top of that, these adverse effects in certain brain regions– including frontal cortex volume and the decreased volume of gray matter– were more significant among men. The researchers believe this difference might be due to the protective benefits that estrogen provides women prior to menopause.
In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 47% of adults have hypertension, according to the CDC. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, refers to blood pressure that exceeds 130/80 mmHg.
The rate of high blood pressure among the adult population does vary by race and gender, though. Among Black adults, the hypertension rate is approximately 56%; meanwhile, white adults have a rate of 48%, Asian adults have a rate of 46%, and Hispanic adults have a hypertension rate of 39%.
In terms of gender, approximately 44% of women have hypertension compared to about 50% of men.