High blood pressure can damage the same regions of the brain that are linked to dementia and declines in mental processes, according to a study published Monday, directly tying the two serious medical conditions for the first time.
Prior to this study, researchers had causally linked high blood pressure with changes in the brain, but a paper published Monday in the European Heart Journal clarified how blood pressures damages the brain, connecting specific regions in the brain to both high blood pressure and decline in mental processes, researchers said.
Researchers used information from MRI brain scans, genetic analyses and observational data from thousands of patients to examine the effect of high blood pressure on cognitive function.
Nine parts of the brain saw changes related to higher blood pressure and worse cognitive function, including the part responsible for regulating movement and influencing certain types of learning, researchers said.
Other parts of the brain affected include those involved in executive functions—planning of simple and complex daily tasks—and the management of emotions and decision making, according to the study.
30%. That’s the percentage of people who have high blood pressure worldwide, researchers said.
For years, researchers have attempted to explain the link between high blood pressure and cognitive function. While multiple studies have suggested there is a link, Monday’s study shows the parts of the brain affected by both health problems. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, for example, suggested blood pressure could be considered an early biomarker for measuring cognitive impairment in individuals without dementia or stroke. Another 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that lowering blood pressure lowers the impact of mild cognitive impairment, a known risk factor for dementia.