High blood pressure and diabetes can affect brain structure

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Ricky Joseph

Hypertension and type 2 diabetes affect the body, but a new study brings evidence that these diseases can also affect our mind, even if in subtle ways.

Let's better understand these effects on brain cognition and when they can be observed.

High blood pressure and diabetes slow brain cognition

Co-author of this study, neurologist Michele Veldsman is from Oxford University and reported in detail this discovery to Science Alert.

First of all, having high blood pressure and diabetes has a detrimental effect on thinking speed and memory.

That is, as blood pressure increases, thinking speed and memory worsen.

Therefore, diseases and genetic factors that affect the blood supply of the brain are known as cerebrovascular risk factors.

Because of these risk factors, there is already research proving that these factors increase the likelihood of older people developing dementia.

But this new research looked at a younger group and with other, more subtle measures to determine how the brain might be affected in terms of memory and speed of thought.

The research team analysed brain MRI images from more than 22,000 UK Biobank participants and looked for changes in the brain's grey and white matter pathways.

Consequently, the researchers recorded the clinical, demographic, and cognitive data of the volunteers.

The regions analyzed were the white matter pathways because they are the ones that communicate in networks and connect different regions, working together to coordinate thought, Veldsman explained.

Then, it was found that brain volume in a frontoparietal network and the integrity of white matter connections between regions are affected by risk factors that affect the blood supply to the brain.

The team compared the MRI data with cognitive data from participants aged 44 to 70. What they found was that higher blood pressure was associated with lower cognitive performance.

Monitoring and treatment are important

Interestingly, the study with older adults (over 70 years old) did not show the same effect.

Only 5% of the enrollees in this study had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, but they also had lower executive function status.

Even more, researchers emphasize that this mental loss is very small and is only a slight decrease in thinking speed and memory.

Therefore, it does not compare to the total mental loss experienced in dementia.

Still, the fact that we can detect this decrease means that participants' brains are already changing and this may lead to worse outcomes as they get older.

So, it's important to prevent this damage as soon as possible to avoid further decline.

As one of the researchers, neuroscientist Masud Husain of Oxford University, noted, every millimeter of pressure in the arteries counts.

Monitoring and treating even slightly elevated blood pressure can make a difference in the structure of the brain.

The study was published in Nature Communications, with information from Science Alert.

Ricky Joseph is a seeker of knowledge. He firmly believes that through understanding the world around us, we can work to better ourselves and our society as a whole. As such, he has made it his life's mission to learn as much as he can about the world and its inhabitants. Joseph has worked in many different fields, all with the aim of furthering his knowledge. He has been a teacher, a soldier, and a businessman - but his true passion lies in research. He currently works as a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, where he is dedicated to finding new treatments for diseases that have long been considered incurable. Through diligence and hard work, Ricky Joseph has become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and medicinal chemistry in the world. His name is known by scientists everywhere, and his work continues to improve the lives of millions.