A report in the journal Neuropsychology suggests that hypertension (high blood pressure) contributes to age-related declines in the brain and cognition. They looked at two groups of adults: one group remained healthy for 5 years; the other group either had hypertension at the start of the study, or developed it sometime during the 5 year period. After 5 years, the hypertension group had twice the volume of brain abnormalities called white matter hyperintensities (WMH) compared to the control group (see accompanying photo which is not from the study but which illustrates the MRIs of a control brain and a brain with WMH). A larger volume of white matter hyperintensities is associated with cognitive decline, an increased risk of dementia, and accelerated brain aging, according to another study.
The authors of the Neuropsychology study write: “Because vascular disease can be prevented, postponed, and ameliorated by established behavioral . . . and medical . . . means, recognizing its role as a modifier of brain-behavior relationships may be important in planning future interventions in cognitive aging (Neuropsychology, March 2007, p. 155). So, folks, there’s another reason to keep that blood pressure down through exercise, diet, stress-reduction, and/or prescribed medications!