If the pressure in the arteries is constantly raised, the vessels and the organs that supply them suffer. This is also true of the brain. Among other things, the risk of a stroke rises, as does the risk of arterial dementia. This is the second most common cause of massive mental decline in old age, after Alzheimer’s.
A British-Polish research team has now mapped for the first time which brain regions suffer particularly from high blood pressure. It also examined the effects this has on cognitive functions.
What do high blood pressure genes have to do with the brain?
The team examined MRI images of the brains of 30,000 participants in the UK Biobank study and compared this data with previously determined risk genes for high blood pressure. They identified changes in nine brain regions in the brains of people with corresponding risk genes, which could affect cognitive functions such as memory loss, thinking ability, and dementia. The team then verified the results using patients with high blood pressure in Italy.
Heredity analysis confirms cause and effect
Mendelian randomization is a method of using genetic information to understand how one thing affects another. If the gene variants that promote high blood pressure are also associated with corresponding brain changes, there is a high probability that it is the increased blood pressure that causes the changes. This process occurs independently of other factors.
Dysfunctions in the brain
Results suggest that high blood pressure in these areas can cause brain dysfunction, leading to memory problems, thought disorders, and dementia. It is important to treat high blood pressure, even if it doesn’t feel it, as the risk increases with age. Young adults, children, and adolescents are also increasingly affected.
“Demenz: Wie Bluthochdruck Das Gehirn Schädigt.” NetDoktor, 11 Apr. 2023, http://www.netdoktor.at/news/demenz-wie-bluthochdruck-das-gehirn-schaedigt.