High Blood Pressure in Your 30s is Associated with Worse Brain Health in Your 70s

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. A normal blood pressure level is less than 130/80 mmHg.

The rate of high blood pressure varies by sex and race. About 50% of men have high blood pressure compared to 44% of women

The research 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 researchers found that the high blood pressure group had significantly lower regional brain volumes and worse white matter integrity. Both factors are associated with dementia.

“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 said.

The researchers looked at data from 427 participants. They obtained two blood pressure readings from when the participants were between the ages of 30 to 40. This allowed them to determine if they had been hypertensive, transitioning to hypertensive or had normal blood pressure in young adulthood.

MRI scans of the participants conducted between 2017 and 2022 allowed them to look for late-life neuroimaging biomarkers of neurodegeneration and white matter integrity.

A significant reduction in cerebral gray matter volume is seen in both men and women with hypertension but is stronger in men.

“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. 

“We are excited to be able to continue following these participants and to uncover more about what one can do in early life to set yourself up for healthy brain aging in late life,” Whitmer said.

Sources from: 

Kristen M. George, Pauline Maillard, Paola Gilsanz, Evan Fletcher, Rachel L. Peterson, Joseph Fong, Elizabeth Rose Mayeda, Dan M. Mungas, Lisa L. Barnes, M. Maria Glymour, Charles DeCarli, Rachel A. Whitmer. Association of Early Adulthood Hypertension and Blood Pressure Change With Late-Life Neuroimaging Biomarkers. JAMA Network Open, 2023; 6 (4): e236431 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.6431

University of California – Davis Health. “High blood pressure in your 30s is associated with worse brain health in your 70s.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 April 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/04/230407110728.htm>.

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Photo by Mufid Majnun