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High blood pressure in 30s, 40s may increase dementia risk later in life

By Tauren Dyson
High blood pressure in 30s, 40s may increase dementia risk later in life
Researchers say that damage to the brain from high blood pressure during middle age may increase risk for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. File Photo by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Hypertension for middle aged adults may lead to poorer brain health later in life, and increase risk for at least one type of dementia, researchers say.

People older than age 43 with high blood pressure and people between ages 36 and 43 with greater increases in blood pressure had lower brain volume those than without normal blood pressure, according to research published Tuesday in The Lancet Neurology, which can damage the brain and increase risk for Alzheimer's disease later in life.

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"High blood pressure in midlife is one of the strongest lifestyle risk factors for dementia, and one that is in our control to easily monitor and manage," said Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK.

The current study, known as Insight 46, used 502 people from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development study. The researchers performed brain scans on 465 participants to examine brain health, such as blood vessel damage and presence of the protein amyloid, a strong precursor for Alzheimer's disease.

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The researchers found people with higher blood pressure by age 53 had more blood vessel damage known as "mini-strokes" by the time they reached their early 70s.

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High blood pressure did not contribute to the amyloid buildup in the brain or memory problems in the participants, the researchers say, but the damage cause by high blood pressure has been shown in previous studies to play a role in dementia development.

"Research is already suggesting that more aggressive treatment of high blood pressure in recent years could be improving the brain health of today's older generations," Routledge said. "We must continue to build on this insight by detecting and managing high blood pressure even for those in early midlife."

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