High blood pressure in young people can lead to long-term brain problems

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High blood pressure in young people can have a negative effect on their middle-aged brains, and studies have shown that the stresses and sedentary lifestyles experienced by many during a pandemic can have a lifelong cognitive impact.

A study presented at the American Stroke Association’s 2022 International Stroke Conference in February found that high blood pressure in young people between the ages of 20 and 40 may be related to cognitive changes in middle age around 55, which increases the risk of cognitive decline. and dysfunction in later life. These results suggest that health professionals may consider aggressive treatment for young people with high blood pressure, the study authors said.

The results of this small study, which involved 142 participants, support the results of other studies. A 2020 study of the effects of hypertension on the brain at all ages showed that high blood pressure in early life, even in childhood, was due to changes in brain structure, cerebral vascular function, and cognitive processes. He also found that there was insufficient evidence to explain the pattern of cerebral insufficiency associated with high blood pressure, but that early intervention could help lower blood pressure and maintain brain function.

“Brain injury is concentrated and it starts sooner than we think,” says Mitch Elkind, a professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center and head of the Department of Clinical Outcomes and Neurology. “The earlier we look at life, the more evidence we find that changes in cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure in early life are associated with later life evidence of brain injury, including undiagnosed stroke, cerebral leukemia, and cognitive impairment.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these findings are cause for concern because pediatric hypertension in the United States has quadrupled in the last 30 to 40 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 25 young people between the ages of 12 and 19 has high blood pressure (hypertension), and one in 10 has high blood pressure.

Children may also have high blood pressure. What should you do?

Alan Swed, a professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, who co-authored the 2020 review, said the February study “underscores the importance of this problem.” Monitoring blood pressure at an early age and paying attention to high blood pressure in childhood, even those that are slightly elevated or considered “pre-hypertensive,” can help reduce long-term problems. ”

A February study found that high blood pressure was associated with a smaller brain in middle age (approximately 50 years) from an early age. “The brain areas we measured are important structures, such as the hippocampus, that respond to memory formation,” says Christina Linbeck, chief study of the study and vascular neurologist at Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

He describes how walking, cognition, and even emotions can affect this change in the brain. “If we control the blood pressure of these young people better, the changes in the brain may be less over time,” he says.

“High blood pressure in young people can have a negative impact on their brain health in later life, but there is every reason to believe that interventions aimed at lowering their blood pressure and the risk of other cardiovascular diseases will improve the situation,” Swed agrees.

A sedentary lifestyle and stress contribute to high blood pressure in young people, but there are other factors such as sleep apnea, kidney disease, thyroid disease and some medications. These conditions can be detected by blood tests, urine tests, echocardiograms, ultrasound of the kidneys and other methods. Some people are unaware that their blood pressure is high, so screening remains important.

Some very simple lifestyle changes can help with high blood pressure

According to the Mayo Clinic, when a child has high blood pressure at least three times, they are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Once diagnosed, it is important to determine the type of high blood pressure – primary or secondary. Primary blood pressure is caused by environmental or genetic factors. Secondary blood pressure is the result of another disease.

High blood pressure in young people is usually treated by lifestyle changes, including proper nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. When lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medication. These medications may include angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.

“There are many things that can contribute to high blood pressure, including an active lifestyle, a healthy diet and avoidance of smoking,” Linbeck said. “The American Heart Association’s ‘Simple Seven’ is an excellent link to improving cardiovascular and brain health.”

“The impact of a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, cannot be overestimated,” says Sweden.

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