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Blood pressure link to poorer brain health

Blood pressure
Patients over the age of 30 need to manage blood pressure to protect neurological health in later life, according to a new study

Patients over the age of 30 need to manage blood pressure to protect neurological health in later life, according to a study published in The Lancet.

The study looked at 502 people born in 1946. It found that higher blood pressure in early mid-life to later blood vessel damage and brain shrinkage.

‘High blood pressure in midlife is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that is in our control to easily monitor and manage,’ said Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK.

‘Research is already suggesting that more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure in recent years could be improving the brain health of today's older generations. We must continue to build on this insight by detecting and managing high blood pressure even for those in early midlife.’

The brain scans looked for levels of a key Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid, in the brain. The scans also assessed the size of the brain – an indicator of brain health – and the presence of blood vessel damage in the brain. The results showed that higher blood pressure at the age of 53 and faster rises in blood pressure between 43 and 53 were associated with more signs of blood vessel damage or ‘mini strokes’ in the brain when an individual was in their early 70s.

‘This unique group of individuals, who have contributed to research their entire lives, has already shaped our understanding of the factors influencing health throughout life. The Insight 46 study has allowed us to reveal more about the complex relationship between blood pressure and brain health. The findings suggest that blood pressure even in our 30s could have a knock-on effect on brain health four decades later,’ said Prof Jonathan Schott, Clinical Neurologist at the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

“We now know that damage caused by high blood pressure is unlikely to be driven through the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid, but through changes in blood vessels and the brain’s architecture. The findings show that blood pressure monitoring and interventions aimed at maximising brain health later in life need to be targeted at least by early midlife.’