They explain how high blood pressure damages the brain

They explain how high blood pressure damages the brain

For the first time, researchers have identified specific regions of the brain that are damaged by high blood pressure and may contribute to slowing thought processes and the development of dementia.

High blood pressure is known to be involved in dementia and damage to brain function. Now, a study, which is published in the “European Heart Journal”, explains the mechanisms involved in this process for the first time.

High blood pressure is a common disease, affecting almost 30% of people worldwide. Studies have shown that it affects how the brain works and can cause long-term changes. However, until now it was not known exactly how high blood pressure damages the brain and which specific regions are affected.

“HBP has long been known to be a risk factor for cognitive decline, but how it damages the brain was unclear. This study shows that specific regions of the brain are at particularly high risk of damage from blood pressure, which may help identify people at risk of cognitive decline in the early stages and potentially target therapies more effectively in the future,” says study co-author Professor Joanna Wardlaw, Head of Neuroimaging Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

The research collected information from a combination of brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetic analysis and observational data from 30,000 participants in the UK Biobank study to look at the effect of high blood pressure (HTN) on cognitive function. .

The researchers later verified their findings in a separate large group of patients in Italy.

“Using this combination of imaging, genetic, and observational data, we have identified specific areas of the brain that are affected by increases in blood pressure. We think these locations could be where high blood pressure affects cognitive function, such as memory loss, thinking skills and dementia,” explains Tomasz Guzik, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh (UK) and the Faculty of Medicine of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow (Poland), who led the research.

Hypertension is a common disease, affecting nearly 30% of people worldwide

Specifically, they found that changes in nine areas of the brain were linked to higher blood pressure and poorer cognitive function: the putamen, which is a round structure at the base of the front part of the brain, responsible for regulating movement and influencing in several types of learning, the anterior thalamic radiate, the anterior corona radiata, and the anterior arm of the internal capsule, which are regions of white matter that connect and allow signaling between different parts of the brain. The anterior thalamic radiation is involved in executive functions, such as planning simple and complex daily tasks, while the other two regions are involved in decision making and managing emotions.

Changes in these areas include decreases in brain volume and the amount of surface area in the cerebral cortex, changes in the connections between different parts of the brain, and changes in measures of brain activity.

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Guzik adds that when his findings were verified by analyzing the group of patients in Italy who had AHT, “we saw that the areas of the brain that we had identified were indeed affected».

The researchers hope the findings will help develop new ways to treat cognitive decline in people with high blood pressure. “Studying the genes and proteins in these brain structures could help us understand how hypertension affects the brain and causes cognitive problems. Furthermore, by looking at these specific brain regions, we can predict who will develop memory loss and dementia faster in the context of high blood pressure.”

According to Guzik, this could serve to design more intensive therapies to prevent the development of cognitive impairment in patients at higher risk.

The study’s first author, Associate Professor Mateusz Siedlinski, also a researcher at the Jagiellonian University Faculty of Medicine, notes that the study, for the first time, “iidentified specific areas in the brain that are potentially causally associated with hypertension and cognitive function».


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