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High Blood Pressure Associated With Increase In Brain Lesions

White matter hyperintensities are lesions in the brain that proliferate as the brain ages. They are associated with increased risk for cognitive decline as well as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. A new study suggests that high blood pressure may be associated with an increase in white matter hyperintensities later in life.

For their study, the researchers used data from 37,041 participants in the UK Biobank. Blood pressure was measured at baseline and after 9 years. Brain MRI scans were administered at the end of the study period to determine the proportion of white matter hyperintensities volume to total volume of white matter.

A higher volume of white matter hyperintensities was found to be associated with higher current systolic blood pressure. For every 10 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure, white matter hyperintensities volume increased by 1.126-fold. 

A strong association was also found between higher volume of white matter hyperintensities and diastolic blood pressure when under the age of 50. For every 5 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure, white matter hyperintensities volume increased by 1.106-fold.

For participants with the highest white matter hyperintensities volume, 24% of the volume was attributed to having a systolic blood pressure above 120 mmHg. 7% of the volume was attributed to having a diastolic blood pressure above 70 mmHg.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford.It was published on November 26, 2020 in the European Heart Journal.

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