Study. High blood pressure in your 30s can mean poorer brain health in your 70s

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Are hypertension and blood pressure changes in early adulthood associated with late-life brain health? According to A new study From UC Davis, the answer is yes, especially for men.

Many younger adults can pay little attention problems such as blood pressure, but it is a good opportunity for journalists to remind their audience that heart health is important at every age.

In cohort studies In JAMA Open, published April 3, researchers studied 427 adults age 50 and older and found that high or rising blood pressure in early adulthood was associated with changes in average regional brain volumes and white matter structure. These associations were stronger in men than in women for some brain regions.

Using the data Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR) and: Kaiser Healthy Aging and Diverse Life Experiences (KHANDLE) study, which included racial and ethnic adults aged 50 and older from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley in California, researchers analyzed health assessments conducted between June 1, 1964, and March 31, 1985. Regional brain volumes and white matter. (WM) integrity was measured by magnetic resonance imaging between June 1, 2017 and March 1, 2022. White matter is the nerve fibers in the brain that connect different parts of the brain to each other and to the spinal cord. Damage to this area can cause problems with memory, balance and walking, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Hypertension status (normal, transient, or elevated) was assessed in early and middle adulthood (mean age 28.9 and 40.3). The researchers then looked at the MRI results when the participants had an average of 74.8. A total of 263 participants (61.6%) were female and 231 (54.1%) were black.

Compared to participants with normal blood pressure, those with and without hypertension had smaller brains, frontal cortex (related to thinking, organization, and planning), and parietal cortex dimensions (sensory integration and self-perception). It was also smaller in participants with hypertension volume of the hippocampus(related to short-term memory) greater ventricular volumes, and other negative changes in brain volume. These factors are associated with dementia.

In addition, the researchers found that brain changes in some regions were stronger in men, which may be related to the protective benefits of estrogen before menopause, according to the study authors.

This study provides further evidence that managing health indicators is important in early and middle adulthood. The authors particularly noted that “these efforts are important for racial and ethnic minority groups such as older Asians, blacks, and Latinos in the United States, among whom older black and Latino adults have a disproportionate risk of dementia. Older black adults have an excess risk of hypertension, and all 3 groups (older Asian, black, and Latino adults) have a lower prevalence of controlled hypertension compared with their white counterparts.”

Hypertension is a common but easily treatable condition that affects nearly half (47%) of US adults, according to the CDC. It is defined as a systolic blood pressure above 130 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure above 80 mm Hg. (Normal blood pressure is 120/80). High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and heart disease and costs the US health care system an estimated $131 billion annually. Only one-fourth of adults have high blood pressure under control.


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