Here is another reason to control your blood pressure: Hypertension later in life can contribute to blockages and entanglement of blood vessels related to Alzheimer's disease suggests a recent investigation.
Tracing close to 1,300 elderly people until they died, scientists found markedly higher risks of one or more brain injuries among those with high systolic blood pressure readings.
These injuries were dominated by so-called "infarcts" – areas of dead tissue caused by blockages in the blood supply that can trigger strokes.
Normal blood pressure is defined as 120/80 mm / Hg or less. The upper number is known as systolic blood pressure (pressure in the vessels during the heartbeat), while the lowest number is the diastolic blood pressure (pressure between beats).
Late last year, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association changed blood pressure recommendations, which defined high blood pressure as 130/80 mm / Hg or more.
"We have known for many decades that high blood pressure, especially the youngest in life, is related to strokes but we know much less about cerebrovascular disease and we wanted to examine the issue of blood pressure later in life, "said study author Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis. She is the medical director of the Rush Memory Clinic in Chicago.
"I think this information is of great value to researchers who study brain changes in aging," he added, "and no doubt points to the need for much more research." fact. "
Arvanitakis and his team followed almost 1,300 people until his death, which occurred at an average age of almost 89. Two-thirds of the participants, who were mostly women, had a history of high blood pressure, and 87 One hundred took blood pressure medications.
Using the results of the autopsy after the deaths of the participants, the researchers found that 48 percent had one or more infarcted brain injuries.The risk of injury was higher in those with higher average systolic blood pressure readings over the years.
For example, for someone with an average systolic blood pressure of 147 mm / Hg compared to 134 mm / Hg, the odds of brain injury increased by 46 per cent. A smaller but noticeable increase in the risk of brain injury was also found in those with elevated diastolic blood pressure.
When signs of Alzheimer's disease were found in autopsied brains, the researchers also saw an badociation between higher systolic blood pressure in previous years, death and more tangles: knots of brain cells that indicate the presence of the disease.
However, amyloid plaques, which also characterize a brain affected by Alzheimer's disease, were not related to blood pressure in the investigation. Arvanitakis said more studies are needed.
Dr. Ajay Misra is president of neurosciences at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York. He described the study as "very important" and said it should trigger a crucial dialogue on how to better control blood pressure in older adults.
"A lot of good information came out, but there are more questions than answers," said Misra, who was not involved in the new research. "This study was conducted to provoke such questions."
Misra noted that the study found that rapidly decreasing blood pressure in older adults actually increases the risks of stroke. One possible reason for that, he said, is that the arteries become less elastic as we age, so a slightly higher blood pressure is needed to keep the blood flowing properly.
"This acts as a reminder that you can not go and publish that a set of guidelines for blood pressure is good for everyone," he added. "I think it will be age-specific about how blood pressure should be maintained or if there should be some specific patterns of illness or circumstance."
The study was published online on July 11 in the journal Neurology .
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