Researchers have revealed that higher than normal blood pressure (BP) is linked to more extensive brain damage in the elderly, suggesting that it is important to control blood pressure longterm. The stud, published in the journal European Heart Journal, found that there was a strong association between diastolic blood pressure (the blood pressure between heartbeat) before the age of 50 and brain damage in later life, even if the diastolic blood pressure was within what is normally considered to be a healthy range.
The findings come from a study of 37,041 participants enrolled in the UK Biobank, a large group of people recruited from the general population aged between 40 and 69 years, and for whom medical information, including MRI brain scan was available. The research, carried out by the University of Oxford in the UK, looked for damage in the brain called “white matter hyperintensities (WMH).” These show up on MRI brain scan as brighter regions and they indicate dame to the small blood vessels in the brain that increases with age and blood pressure.
“To compare the volume of white matter hyperintensities between people and to adjust for the fact that people’s brain vary slightly in size, the team divided the volume of WMH by the total volume of white matter in the brain. In that way, they could analyse the WMH load, which is the proportion of the WMH volume to the total volume of white matter in the brain. In that way they could analyse the WMH load, which is the proportion of the WMH volume to the total volume of white matter.
The research found that a higher load of WMH was strongly associated with current systolic blood pressure, but the strongest association was for past diastolic blood pressure, particularly when under the age of 50.