High Blood Pressure Instigates Cognitive Decline

Posted on November 05 2012

High blood pressure can lead to many different health problems including stroke, kidney damage and coronary artery disease. A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of California, Davis, indicates that high systolic blood pressure can cause a structural breakdown in the white and grey matter of the brain. The new report looks at systolic blood pressure levels, which is the level of pressure on the vessels as the heart beats and is the first number in blood pressure readings. Using data collected from the longest running heart study, The Framingham Heart Study, researchers reviewed almost 600 people ages 19 to 63. Looking at their brain scans and blood pressure readings, the scientists found that those with clinically high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg) showed deteriorating brain conditions. Many reviewed patients had not even hit middle age and still showed signs of deteriorating brain function. Some patients with high blood pressure and in middle age showed brains aged 7.2 years older than that of another middle age patient with regular blood pressure. The breakdown in matter at such an early age results in a loss of cognitive function, while still in the productive years of life. Those with normal blood pressure readings are also susceptible to the brain function decline, as the researchers saw the same declines in those with slightly higher levels of systolic pressure or no increased levels at all. The biggest lesson from this study is no matter what your blood pressure, heart health and the aging brain are very closely related. The deterioration of brain matter not only brings on cognitive decline, but also increases risk for dementia, two conditions commonly seen in the elder population. However, the research shows that the brain deterioration is happening sooner in life for those living with high systolic blood pressure. It is recommended to check your pressure regularly, either by visiting a local pharmacy or grocery store and using their machines, or at home with a home blood pressure monitor. A check up with the family physician is also encouraged to open dialogue about what can be done to keep your blood pressure at safe levels. Medications are available and many steps can be taken through lifestyle change that will keep the blood flowing and the brain working for many years to come.   Sources: Time Health and Family - Medical News Today - MedPage Today -


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