Dementia: The condition to manage in your 40s or risk cognitive decline later on – signs
The vast majority of Dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by targeting modifiable risk factors. Oftentimes dementia patients will present with signs of shrinking in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the areas of the brain associated with concentration and memory. There are many known causes for the shrinking of the brain, including stress, injuries and alcohol use. Researchers, however, have warned that elevated blood pressure in your 40s could also be a risk factor.
To determine the risk of blood pressure on cognitive decline, a team of researchers at University College London drew on data gathered from individuals who had been part of a research project since they were born in 1946.
The volunteers had their blood pressure measured in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.
For their analysis, lead author of the study, Jonathan Schott and his team took brain scans to assess the cognition of 502 members of the group, who at the time of the analysis were aged between 69 and 71.
The findings revealed that individuals who had higher diastolic blood pressure at the age of 43 were more likely to have smaller brains by the time they were around 70.
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The hippocampus, the area of the brain that manages learning and memories, seemed especially affected.
Individuals with higher systolic pressure between the ages of 43 had a smaller hippocampus by the age of 70.
Schott noted: “It looks like one’s blood pressure is influencing one’s brain health 40 years later.”
Previous studies had drawn similar conclusions in the past, notably that people who take medication to lower their blood pressure are less likely to develop dementia.
The team stressed that the results only showed a correlation, and no causal link was established.
Doctor Karen Doyle, a physiologist from the National University of Ireland Galway, said: “The study clearly implicated high blood pressure as a cause of white matter lesions and smaller brain volume later in life.
“It also distinguishes between the effect of high blood pressure on two known causes of dementia – small cerebral blood vessel diseases increased with high blood pressure, but there is no significant link to the amyloid pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The Insight 46 participants are only 70 years old in this study – still relatively young.
“A limitation to this study that is acknowledged by the authors is that the sample is composed of people with fewer health problems than average and is exclusively composed of white people.
“Nevertheless, the overall conclusion that earlier monitoring and intervention to reduce high blood pressure will help to protect the brain as we age, is sound.”
Lenore Launer, of the US National institutes of Health, wrote in a comment on the study: “Millions of individuals have unhealthy blood pressure.
“Immediate attention should be given to efforts to control blood pressure through clinical services and public health interventions.”
As Alzheimer’s disease damage spreads through the brain, the prefrontal cortex becomes thinner, causing long-term memory to deteriorate.
Damage to the left hemisphere, on the other hand, is linked to problems with dementia memory and language.
What’s more, the condition can make it difficult for sufferers to acquire new memories or learn new information as the condition progresses further.
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