High blood pressure affects the brain – Scientists have identified parts of the brain damaged by high blood pressure which can lead to dementia, in a world first.
British researchers discovered it causes changes to 9 regions of the brain – including those associated with learning, decision-making, cognition, and emotions.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high.
Experts believe the findings will be able to help predict who is likely to get dementia – paving the way for earlier interventions and treatments, to reduce risks and slow decline.
High blood pressure affects around one in three UK adults and is a known risk factor for dementia. But until now, it was unclear how and which specific regions were affected and if these changes were caused by high blood pressure or not.
Researchers examined MRI scans, genetic information, and observational data from more than 30,000 people taking part in the UK Biobank study.
They found changes to nine parts of the brain were related to higher blood pressure and worse cognitive function.
Two regions involved in decision-making and the management of emotions were affected, according to the findings in the European Heart Journal.
Changes included decreases in brain volume and the amount of surface area on the brain cortex, disruption to connections between different parts of the brain as well as changes in measures of the brain’s activity.
‘We hope our findings may help us to develop new ways to treat cognitive impairment in people with high blood pressure.
‘Studying the genes and proteins in these brain structures could help us understand how high blood pressure affects the brain and causes cognitive problems.’