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Sustained high blood pressure can damage brain vessels

Researchers in the United States (U.S.) said having high blood pressure for long periods could increase the chance of small vessel damage in the brain, a condition which has been linked to stroke and dementia. According to the result of their research, published in ‘Hypertension,’ the journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), the longer participants had high blood pressure, the more likely they were to have cerebral small blood vessel disease, which is the most frequent type of vascular brain disease in people with stroke and dementia. However, the researchers said: “If we treat hypertension early on, we’re likely to decrease the occurrence of small vessel disease and, more importantly, the occurrence of dementia and stroke.”

Scientists have long known high blood pressure, also called hypertension, can lead to stroke, and past studies also have connected it to Alzheimer’s disease, the ‘Newsmax’ reported. According to the new guidelines by the American Heart Association (AHA), high blood pressure is now defined as readings of 130 mm Hg and higher for the systolic blood pressure measurement, or readings of 80 and higher for the diastolic measurement. That is a change from the old definition of 140/90 and higher, reflecting complications that can occur at those lower numbers.

The researchers looked at data from 1,686 adults who were free of stroke or dementia at the start of the study. Participants were given periodic blood pressure measurements throughout mid and late life, as well as brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to check different parts of the brain for cerebral microbleeding, the accumulation of small blood products in brain tissue, and dead tissue. Both are signs of cerebral small vessel disease.

MRI is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves to generate images of the organs in the body. The study’s senior author, Dr. José Rafael Romero, said it’s the first time a population-based study had reported the link between long-term high blood pressure trends and the prevalence of cerebral small vessel disease in late life.

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