(HealthDay News) — Hypertension diagnosed in early adulthood or midlife is associated with smaller total brain volume and with an increased dementia risk, according to a study published online in Hypertension.

Xianwen Shang, MPH, PhD, from Guangdong Academy of Medical Sciences in Guangzhou, China, and colleagues conducted an analysis based on the UK Biobank with baseline data collected between 2006 and 2010. Brain volumes were measured between 2014 and 2019 using brain magnetic resonance imaging. For each participant with hypertension, a control participant was randomly selected, stratified by age at diagnosis of hypertension. The brain volume analysis included 11,399 individuals with hypertension and 11,399 controls; the dementia analysis included 124,053 individuals with hypertension and 124,053 controls.

The researchers found that compared with controls, individuals with hypertension diagnosed at ages younger than 35, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 years had smaller total brain volumes (ß = −10.83, −6.82, and −3.77 mL, respectively) in the multivariable analysis. In addition, there were independent associations seen for hypertension diagnosed in early- or mid-life with smaller volumes of gray matter, peripheral cortical gray matter, and white matter. Overall, 4626 cases of incident all-cause dementia were documented during a median follow-up of 11.9 years. After adjustment for covariates, individuals with hypertension diagnosed at 35 to 44 years of age had a higher risk for all-cause dementia (hazard ratio, 1.61).


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“Our study’s results provide evidence to suggest an early age at onset of hypertension is associated with the occurrence of dementia and, more importantly, this association is supported by structural changes in brain volume,” Shang said in a statement. “The findings raise the possibility that better prevention and control of high blood pressure in early adulthood could help prevent dementia.”

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