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Rising Blood Pressure In Childhood May Lead To Brain Damage Later In Life

Jan 03, 2023 By Madison Evans

The findings of this research, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, suggest that high blood pressure in young adults may affect brain anatomy and hasten the deterioration of brain health in later life. Results highlight the significance of initiating blood pressure management at a young age and maintaining it throughout life."We tend to think of ourselves as immortal while we're in our 20s," Pamela J. Schreiner, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Epidemiology as well as Community Health at the University of Minnesota, told health.

The main finding of this study, which involved analyzing brain MRI data from 853, was that people whose blood pressure rose moderately or significantly during their adult years were more likely to show signs of poor brain health compared to those whose blood pressure remained relatively constant throughout this period. This altered state of brain health was characterized by decreased gray matter volume, aberrant white matter volume, and decreased gray matter blood flow.

The Findings Of The Research

A prospective longitudinal study of Black and white men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 (called CARDIA) was employed for this research. Over 30 years (1985-2016), participants were assessed as many as eight times. Twenty-five and thirty years into the research, participants had magnetic resonance imaging scans to look at how their brains had changed in terms of structure as well as blood flow.

According to the authors, participants who started off with a higher blood pressure level and went on to suffer a progressive rise in blood pressure throughout early adulthood were more likely to show signs of diminished brain health by midlife. Prevention of high blood pressure "may be necessary" in young adults, the research said. According to the study's primary author, Schreiner, high blood pressure does not go away on its own and may cause long-term harm if not treated.

Factors Influencing High Blood Pressure

Schreiner states that hypertension is often asymptomatic, meaning there are no outward signs until the blood pressure reaches a critical level and the patient suffers a clinical event like a heart attack or stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the following as common risk factors that might contribute to hypertension:

  • Diets high in sodium and low in potassium
  • Having no time to work out
  • Obesity
  • Drinking excessively
  • Use of Tobacco

Heredity And Family Tree

According to Wanpen Vongpatanasin, MD, a hypertension specialist physician cardiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, young individuals are more at risk since they may be less inclined to check their blood pressure regularly. However, the CDC reports that certain populations are more at risk for hypertension than others. Here are a few examples:

  • Fifty percent of males and forty-four percent of women have high blood pressure.
  • Black adults (those who are not of African descent) are more likely to have a high blood pressure than white people (48%) or Asian adults (46%), or Hispanic adults (39%).

How To Lower Blood Pressure For Better Brain Health In The Future

Hypertensive individuals may take preventative measures to reduce their blood pressure, which may positively affect their brain's health in the long run. Given the importance of lifestyle in the development of hypertension, you can control your condition by implementing simple lifestyle adjustments and decreasing your behavioral risk factors. Schreiner emphasized the importance of prevention and the possibility of altering undesirable results via very simple measures. Remember that your twenties are formative years, Schreiner said. "To avoid long-term consequences, preventative measures should be taken while people are young (between the ages of 18 and 30), not when they are in their 50s. You can't change your genes but can lay the groundwork for a healthy middle age by making positive choices now."


This study, published in JAMA Network Open, provides more evidence that high blood pressure in young individuals may affect brain structure and speed up the decline of brain health with age. According to new research, young individuals whose blood pressure rises gradually over time may be at more risk for cognitive loss as they age. High blood pressure in young people has been linked to changes in brain structure and a hastening of cognitive decline in old age, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open. The importance of starting early and being consistent with blood pressure control is highlighted.

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