Higher blood pressure linked to greater brain damage in older adults

  • A clinical trial found that hypertensive older adults who took medication to keep their systolic blood pressure around 130 showed markedly fewer white matter lesions than those maintaining a level of 145.
  • A large, long-running study found that higher blood pressiure was linked to more brain lesions and more tau tangles.
  • A long-running study found that both higher amyloid-beta levels and higher vascular risk were linked to faster cognitive decline, with the factors interacting to be worse than additive.

Lowering blood pressure prevents worsening brain damage in elderly

A clinical trial involving 199 hypertensive older adults (average age 81) found that those who took medicine to keep their 24-hour systolic blood pressure around 130 mm Hg for three years showed 40% less accumulation of white matter lesions compared with those taking medicine to maintain a systolic blood pressure around 145 mm Hg.

60% of the patients maintained their target blood pressure throughout the full three years, and data from these alone showed an even bigger difference in number of brain lesions.

The study used around-the-clock ambulatory blood pressure monitors, which measured participants' blood pressure during all activities of daily living.

Participants had an average systolic blood pressure around 150 mm Hg at the beginning of the trial.

The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/acoc-lbp031819.php

Brain lesions linked to higher blood pressure in older adults

A long-running study tracking 1,288 older adults (65+) until their deaths found that the risk and number of brain lesions increased with higher blood pressure. High blood pressure was also linked to increased risk of protein tangles in the brain.

Two-thirds of the subjects had high blood pressure, while about half had one or more brain infarcts. Those with an upper blood pressure of 147 had a 46% higher chance of having one or more lesions.

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/higher-blood-pressure-has-links-to-brain-lesions-in-older-adults-64495

Vascular risk interacts with amyloid levels to increase age-related cognitive decline

Data from 223 participants in the Harvard Aging Brain Study found that both elevated brain amyloid levels and higher vascular risk were associated with more rapid cognitive decline, with the most rapid changes seen in those with both factors. The interaction between the two factors appears to be synergistic rather than simply additive — that is, the interaction between vascular factors and amyloid burden produces more risk than would be predicted from simply adding the two together.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/mgh-vri052118.php

Reference: 

Arvanitakis, Z., Capuano, A. W., Lamar, M., Shah, R. C., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., & Schneider, J. A. (2018). Late-life blood pressure association with cerebrovascular and Alzheimer disease pathology. Neurology, 91(6), e517. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000005951

[4499] Rabin, J. S., Schultz A. P., Hedden T., Viswanathan A., Marshall G. A., Kilpatrick E., et al.
(2018).  Interactive Associations of Vascular Risk and β-Amyloid Burden With Cognitive Decline in Clinically Normal Elderly Individuals: Findings From the Harvard Aging Brain Study.
JAMA Neurology. 75(9), 1124 - 1131.