A newly published study has linked high blood pressure to brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Researchers specifically point to blood pressure later in life, finding that patients with higher systolic blood pressure had a greater risk of brain lesions. The study followed 1288 older individuals until their death, at which point their brains were studied.
The study was recently published in the journal Neurology, where researchers say the volunteers passed away at an average age of 89 years old. During their time in the study, researchers monitored the volunteers’ blood pressure; autopsies on their brains were conducted after the volunteers died. From this, researchers found a link between high blood pressure and increased brain disease risk.
The average blood pressure of the participants was 134/71mmHg; anything over 120/80 is considered high blood pressure. Of the volunteers, 2/3rds had high blood pressure in their medical history and 87-percent were on medication for the condition. The autopsies found that 48-percent of the volunteers had at least one brain infarct lesion — that is, areas of dead tissue caused by lack of blood.
Volunteers who had higher than average systolic blood pressure were more likely to have brain lesions than the others. As well, someone who was a standard deviation above systolic blood pressure average was found to have a 46-percent higher chance of large lesions, as well as a 36-percent higher chance of tiny lesions. Unfortunately, declining systolic blood pressure was also associated with increased brain lesion risk.
Diastolic blood pressure was also associated with increased risk, though it was lesser at 28-percent versus systolic’s 46-percent. Higher systolic blood pressure was also linked to tangles in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.