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Early high blood pressure associated with early cognitive loss
Hypertension is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. In addition, constantly high blood pressure is also associated with a faster loss of mental performance. This becomes particularly clear if the high blood pressure already occurs in young adulthood, as a recent study shows.
As part of a long-term study, researchers from Tel Aviv University showed the consequences of high blood pressure in young adulthood on mental performance in middle age. The researchers observed around 200 adults over a period of 30 years. Those who already had high blood pressure at the start of the study experienced a significantly higher decline in cognitive function over the course of the study than participants with normal blood pressure values. The results were presented in the "Circulation" journal.
Hypertension increases numerous risks
High blood pressure (hypertension) can affect a variety of bodily functions - from the arteries to the kidneys, from eyesight to sexual function. In older adults, high blood pressure is also associated with a cognitive decline and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. According to the current study, the mental performance seems to deteriorate early on, if those affected already have high blood pressure at a young age.
Does mental decline originate in young adulthood?
"We find that the harmful effects of increased blood pressure on the structure and function of the brain begin in early adulthood," explains Professor Jeffrey Hausdorff, one of the study directors. This underlines the need for preventive measures against high blood pressure at an early age. The beginning of changes that later lead to massive restrictions such as dementia could be decades earlier than previously thought, says Hausdorff.
Gait disorders indicate possible brain damage
The researchers also found that gait disorders are a possible early sign of hypertension-related brain damage. In the last year of the 30-year follow-up, the gait of the participants was assessed using a gait mat. At the same time, cognitive function was assessed using neuropsychological tests. The intensity of the white matter in the brain was also measured using MRI.
"A higher cumulative blood pressure was associated with a slower walking speed, a shorter stride and a higher gait variability", summarizes Hausdorff. In addition, the increased blood pressure is also associated with an average lower cognitive performance and poor memory.
Hypertension damages early
"Even in young adults, blood pressure has a significant impact," summarizes the professor. This also applied to elevated values that were still below the hypertension threshold. This finding is important in order to be able to better assess the effects of blood pressure on future cognitive function and mobility. (vb)
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Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Simin Mahinrad, Shawn Kurian, Chaney R. Garner, u.a .: Cumulative Blood Pressure Exposure During Young Adulthood and Mobility and Cognitive Function in Midlife; in: Circulation, 2020, ahajournals.org
- Tel Aviv University: High Blood Pressure in Young Adulthood Associated With Cognitive Decline and Gait Impairment in Middle Age (published: March 4, 2020), aftau.org