High blood pressure connected to cognitive decline and dementia

Dr Manesh Saxena explains new blood pressure injection

The association between high blood pressure and cognitive decline has been observed previously, but a new study reveals how the two are connected. On March 27, a study published in the European Heart Journal identified specific parts of the brain that are affected by increased blood pressure. These include “areas called the putamen and specific white matter regions”, said Professor Tomasz Guzik.

“We thought these areas might be where high blood pressure affects cognitive function, such as memory loss, thinking skills and dementia,” added Professor Guzik.

“When we checked our findings by studying a group of patients in Italy who had high blood pressure, we found that the parts of the brain we had identified were indeed affected.”

Damage to nine different brain regions was associated with both high blood pressure and cognitive decline.

These areas of the brain are involved in learning capability, decision-making task planning, and emotional regulation.

High blood pressure also decreased the volume of brain tissue in participants.

For the research study, the team wanted to investigate whether high blood pressure caused structural brain damage or if it was coincidental.

To do so, the researchers employed a technique called “Mendelian randomisation”.

Professor Guzik explained: “It works by using a person’s genetic information.”

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They then look to see “if there is a relationship between genes predisposing to higher blood pressure and outcomes”.

Professor Guzik added: “In our study, if a gene that causes high blood pressure is also linked to certain brain structures and their function, then it suggests that high blood pressure might really be causing brain dysfunction at that location, leading to problems with memory, thinking and dementia.”

Co-author Dr Mateusz Siedlinski stated: “Our study has, for the first time, identified specific places in the brain that are potentially causally associated with high blood pressure and cognitive impairment.”

Identifying specific brain regions affected by high blood pressure could pave the way for personalised treatments.

High blood pressure health risks

Medically termed as hypertension, the NHS defines high blood pressure as a reading of 140/90mmHg or higher.

The health body adds: “Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.”

There are numerous health risks associated with high blood pressure, including vascular dementia.

Additional health risks include:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Kidney disease.

People who have high blood pressure, or who are on the border of the condition, need to implement lifestyle changes to reduce their reading.

It’s strongly advised to:

  • Reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
  • Cut back on alcohol
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Cut down on caffeine
  • Stop smoking.

Medication might be prescribed by a doctor to help manage high blood pressure.

“The medicine recommended for you will depend on things like how high your blood pressure is, your age and your ethnicity,” the NHS adds.

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