Intensive blood pressure management can help in reducing the risk of developing white matter lesions as you age, a new study suggests. White matter is what makes up most of your brain, and you tend to lose it as you age. Compared to standard blood pressure management, intensive blood pressure management is better, because it’ll help in lowering the chances of thinking and walking problems.
Previous studies have shown how midlife hypertension is related to dementia and mild cognitive impairment in later stages of life. People who have high blood pressure in their 50s are more prone to developing white matter lesions as they age.
White matter keeps changing throughout adulthood, unlike grey matter. It’s made up of nerve fibres called axons. What causes it to be white in colour is myelin, a covering around the nerves that protects them. Thinning of this layer is what causes brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
What matter lesions are signs of high water content, ministrokes, and porous blood vessels. A team of experts conducted an intensive study to find the link between intensive blood pressure treatment and “progression of small vessel ischemic disease, as reflected by cerebral white matter lesion volume."
The brain scans of 449 participants were studied by Dr Nick Bryan, PhD, from the Department of Diagnostic Medicine at the University of Texas and his team to arrive at the conclusion that intensive blood pressure control helps in regulating brain disease as people age.
The research, published in JAMA, made use of data on people who were studied for a four-year period. Some subjects were given standard treatment, which lowered their blood pressure to less than 140 mm Hg. Those who received intensive treatment had their blood pressure reduced to below 120 mm Hg. It was found that white matter lesions for those who received intensive treatment rose by a lesser volume compared to those who received normal treatment.
Dr Clinton B Wright, one of the authors of the study said, “Intensive treatment significantly reduced white matter lesion accumulation in people who had a higher chance of experiencing this kind of damage because they had high blood pressure.”
Lenore J Launer, PhD, and another co-author of the study said, "SPRINT MIND has produced promising initial results in the battle against the nation's growing problem with aging brain disorders. Both the brain scans and cognitive tests reinforce the potential benefits that intensive blood pressure management may have on the brain. We hope that these findings will become the foundation for future studies on how to protect the brain throughout a person's life.”