New European research has found that even young people with blood pressure above normal may show signs of shrinkage in certain parts of the brain.
Carried out by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, the new study looked at 423 healthy adults between 19 and 40 years of age who completed MRI brain scans and at least one blood pressure reading.
For this study, high blood pressure was defined as a reading above 140/90 millimeter of mercury and healthy blood pressure as less than 120/80 millimeter of mercury.
The findings, published in the journal Neurology, showed that compared to people with normal blood pressure, those with blood pressure above normal were more likely to have a loss of volume in the gray matter in certain areas of the brain that have previously been related to gray matter decline in older individuals.
Moreover, overall, the results showed that gray matter volumes decreased as blood pressure increased.
“Previously the assumption has been that brain damage related to high blood pressure results over years of evident disease, but our study suggests that subtle changes in the brain’s gray matter can be seen in young adults who have never been diagnosed with high blood pressure,” said study author Dr. Arno Villringer.
“While the study does not prove that above normal blood pressure causes these gray matter alterations, this research suggests that treating high blood pressure or maintaining lower blood pressure in early adulthood might be essential for preventing the cascade from silent brain changes with no symptoms to organ damaging conditions such as stroke and dementia,” Villringer said, with the team now recommending more research in this area to see if maintaining healthy blood pressure could prevent a range of other diseases. JB