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Checking blood pressure is not just for those late in life.

Under the Surface: Blood Pressure and Your Brain

Brain Damage from High Blood Pressure Starts Early

Did you know nearly half of all Americans struggle with high blood pressure? Most people associate this health problem with risk of heart disease or stroke, but high blood pressure can also influence broader brain health! Recent studies suggests that high blood pressure in early adulthood may be an indicator for poor brain health as early as midlife.

Before diving into the research, here’s a quick reminder about blood pressure. Arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of your body. When you measure your blood pressure, you are measuring the pressure of your blood pushing against the walls of those vessels called arteries. If that pressure stays high, it can damage one’s heart. But now researchers are interested in how continuous high blood pressure might also damage the brain.

For example, in recent research on blood pressure, investigators studied how blood pressure patterns affected brain structure from young adulthood to midlife. Participants in the study included Black and White men and women, ages 18 to 30 years, who were examined up to 8 times over 30 years. There were 885 participants total who underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the 25th or 30th year of examinations. When studying this group, investigators found that increased blood pressure in early adulthood led to structural brain changes as early as midlife. Brains changes included change in lower total gray matter volume, abnormal white matter volume, and lower gray matter cerebral blood flow.

So, what does a study like this mean for you and me? First, know your blood pressure. Checking blood pressure is not just for those late in life. Once you know your blood pressure, talk with your primary care provider about either lowering or maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Many healthy living strategies we’ve discussed in the ALYKA learnings section of our site can also lower blood pressure. Check out some of these previous posts on healthy living that have multiple health benefits including lowering blood pressure:

EXERCISE“Follow Your Heart”

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT – “Weight a Minute”

Resources

Association of Early Adulthood 25-Year Blood Pressure Trajectories With Cerebral Lesions and Brain Structure in Midlife

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