Accelerated brain aging could be avoided by keeping blood pressure within optimal levels. A new study from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that optimal blood pressure helps the brain stay at least six months younger than the actual age. The researchers are now calling for national health guidelines to be updated to reflect these significant findings.
Blood pressure is determined by how forcefully the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, contracts. The diameter and stiffness of the arteries also play a role in blood pressure.
Influences are so numerous and complex that blood pressure can vary from minute to minute and by the hour during the day. This is why it’s important to monitor blood pressure over a long period of time.
The study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience was a collaboration with teams in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany that examined more than 2,000 brain scans of 686 healthy individuals aged 44 to 76. All participants had their blood pressure measured up to four times across 12 years. This information was used to determine participants’ brain age, which is a measure of brain health.
The research teams found that optimal blood pressure can help the brain stay at least six months younger than its actual age. Those with elevated blood pressure were most at risk of accelerated brain aging.
It was documented that compared to a person with a high blood pressure of 135/85, someone with an optimal reading of 110/70 was found to have a brain age that appeared to be more than six months younger by the time they reach middle age.
Researchers say the findings of this study highlight a particular concern for people in their 20s and 30s because it takes time for the effects of increased blood pressure to impact the brain in the future. Prolonged high blood pressure has also been linked to heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
“By detecting the impact of increased blood pressure on the brain health of people in their 40s and older, we have to assume the effects of elevated blood pressure must build up over many years and could start in their 20s. This means that a young person’s brain is already vulnerable,” said lead author Professor Cherbuin.
Monitor Blood Pressure
Young adults should take the opportunity to check their blood pressure at least once a year when they see their general practitioner. If blood pressure levels are elevated, steps should be taken to help reduce it, including modification of lifestyle factors such as physical activity and diet.
It’s important to introduce lifestyle and diet changes early in life to prevent blood pressure from rising rather than waiting for it to become an issue.