Hypertension is a complex condition. According to studies, high blood pressure in young adulthood can negatively impact brain function and structure in later years. Read on to learn more.
- High blood pressure in young adults negatively impacts their brain health as they age.
- High blood pressure is a condition that worsens over time and, consecutively, decreases blood flow to vital brain structures.
- High blood pressure in youth can increase the likelihood of dementia, strokes, and other cognitive degeneration in later years.
- Young adults can adopt healthy lifestyle habits and follow doctors’ advice to limit the damaging effects of hypertensive conditions.
High blood pressure is a concerning health condition. It dramatically affects the cardiovascular system and requires patients to manage a schedule of medication and lifestyle options to maintain healthy blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the adult population in the United States has high blood pressure. In addition, research has found that experiencing high blood pressure in youth can significantly affect brain health in later years.
A study published in JAMA Network Open discovered that high blood pressure at a young age has negative consequences:
- Blood pressure worsens over time which impacts the brain’s cognition with age.
- High blood pressure is linked to changes in brain structure.
Gabriel Zada, MD, from the University of Southern California, stated that high blood pressure is connected to an inflammatory condition that can cause blood vessel injuries. As a result, patients become at risk for dementia, stroke, and other kinds of cognitive degeneration. Therefore, it’s essential to try and lower your blood pressure.
The Effect Of High Blood Pressure On The Brain
High blood pressure is a condition that gradually exacerbates over time. According to researchers, high blood pressure can cause abnormal changes to the brain’s white matter. Due to high blood pressure, the white matter receives lower blood flow, negatively affecting the grey matter.
The white matter is a crucial part of the brain. It contains axons which are messengers which send information to other parts of the brain and neurons. Disturbance in white matter functioning affects an individual’s ability to retain information, think, communicate, and maintain balance. This is called the white matter disease and later can lead to dementia.
In short, blood pressure affects blood flow to essential brain parts responsible for healthy cognitive functioning. The human brain structures fully form at the age of 21, which means young individuals may suffer dire consequences like:
- Altered brain structure
- Decreased cerebrovascular function
- Compromised cognitive ability
- Lower gray matter volume and blood flow
- Abnormal white matter volume
MRI Study On The Effect Of High Blood Pressure On The Brain
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults studied black and white patients with heart conditions. The study began in 1985 and ran for 30 years, following the journey of 5,000 patients who were aged 18 to 30 at the start of the study.
The researchers used MRI scans to study cerebral blood flow changes and brain structural changes. The participants were divided into five groups:
- Low-stable: Low blood pressure that remained the same.
- Moderate-gradual: Moderate blood pressure that increased over time.
- Moderate-increasing: Moderate blood pressure that sharply increased.
- Elevated-stable: High blood pressure throughout.
- Elevated-increasing: High blood pressure that increased until 40 years of age and moderately decreased.
The research concluded:
- The smallest grey matter volume and highest abnormal white matter volume were common in those with high blood pressure that gradually increased.
- The elevated-increasing group had the lowest blood flow to grey matter, but the decrease was nonsignificant when blood pressure medicines were used.
- The moderate-gradual group had abnormal white matter volume.
- Groups 3, 4, and 5 performed poorly on tests that gauged executive function and verbal memory.
The study confirms that those with high blood pressure in their youth, which increases as they get older, experience cognitive impairments in their later years.
In short, if high blood pressure is not contained, it can have damaging effects on the most crucial part of the human body, the brain.
Understanding The Relationship With Brain Health And Hypertension In Youth
Young adulthood is an excellent time to intervene. Hypertension and high blood pressure are chronic conditions that can be maintained with early intervention. If you suspect you have high blood pressure, you must seek immediate medical help.
The good news is that young adults with high blood pressure can take charge of their overall health. Experts advise:
- Creating healthy exercising habits.
- Maintaining a healthy weight according to your body type.
- Choosing healthy and nutritious food and well-balanced meals.
- Taking vital supplements to maintain optimal overall health.
- Focusing on reducing stress or incorporating stress-releasing activities.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Saying no to nicotine and tobacco products.
- Maintaining a healthy and regular sleeping routine.
Doctors and experts also advise getting regular check-ups and keeping up with the required medication to lower blood pressure. In addition, opting for a healthier and more conscious lifestyle can limit the damaging effects of high blood pressure. In the long run, these medical and lifestyle changes can also prevent damage to brain function.
According to experts, the best time for prevention is from 18 to 30 years. This is a critical period when healthy choices and correct medication can save you from further health complications.
You may be susceptible to high blood pressure at a young age if:
- You have a family history of high blood pressure.
- You consume a high sodium and high potassium diet.
- You are overweight or obese.
- You consume alcohol and nicotine products in excess.
- You are not physically active.
At times, an individual may have the ideal lifestyle and BMI. However, family genetics can also play a crucial role in developing blood pressure. Therefore, getting screened for hypertensive conditions is advisable if you suspect you are susceptible.
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Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Associationexternal icon. Circulation. 2019;139(10):e1–e473. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659.