October 07, 2004
High Blood Pressure Harmful To Young Brains Too

High blood pressure contributes to a more rapid decline in cognitive function with age.

ORONO, Maine – High blood pressure in otherwise healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 83 is associated with a measurable decline in cognitive function, according to a report published today by University of Maine researchers in the pre-publication online edition of the journal Hypertension. The article will appear in the October issue of the printed journal.

While they characterize the decline as “relatively minor and manageable in terms of everyday functioning,” the authors say their findings underscore the importance of treatment for high blood pressure. In the study, younger individuals (18-47) performed at a higher level on cognitive function tests than did older individuals (48-83), but they, like older individuals, showed blood pressure-related decline in cognitive function over time.

There is a larger lesson here for younger people because this study fits into a larger pattern. Lots of factors that increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline, and other symptoms of aging characteristic of later life also degrade performance earlier in life. For example, exercise boosts cognitive function at any age. So lack of exercise when one is in one's 20s or 30s is reducing one's cognitive function below what it otherwise would be at those ages. It is never too early to start getting lots of exercise or eating an optimal diet.

An IQ test was used to show the decline in cognitive function due to high blood pressure.

Subjects in the study exhibited a normal range of cognitive functioning, as determined by the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). People suffering from dementia, diabetes, psychiatric illness, alcoholism, drug abuse or stroke were excluded.

In tests of four major areas of mental function, the researchers found that measurements of problem solving abilities under time constraints showed a statistically significant association with blood pressure in younger and older adults, aged 18-83.

Unfortunately, just as a rising rate of child obesity is raising the risk of heart disease and of insulin-resistant diabetes rising prevalence of obesity is also increasing the incidence of early onset high blood pressure.

"What we're finding is that with the current epidemic of overweight and couch-potato children, a higher percentage than ever before are in the hypertensive range," said Dr. Julie R. Ingelfinger, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School.

Obesity has got to be the biggest health problem in the industrialized nations. It increases the risk of many different diseases. Obesity not only increases the risk of cancer but it also has recently been shown that the risk of dying from breast cancer among those who are diagnosed is greater if one is overweight. So obesity makes cancer not only more likely to happen but more deadly for those who get it.

On the bright side, if you take blood pressure lowering drugs you will probably be at less risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

They found that taking beta-blockers together with thiazide diuretics, which protect against bone loss, was linked to a reduced risk of fracture of 29%.

Using beta-blockers alone for around six months was linked to a 23% reduced risk. Taking thiazides alone was associated with a 20% risk.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 October 07 06:04 PM  Aging Studies


Comments
Fly said at October 8, 2004 5:18 PM:

I found the recent discussion on the timetable for progress against aging interesting. My own view is that people were being too conservative. Reversing aging may take several decades. Slowing aging make take a couple of decades. However there are many treatments in development today that should stave off death and improve quality of life. Great progress is being made against cancer. Stem cell treatments should be able to reverse some heart disease. As the main causes of death are eliminated or delayed, more people will live long enough to benefit from aging reversal. Treating high blood pressure is one means for delaying heart disease and strokes.

So when will obesity be a treatable disease? My guess is as soon as within the next ten years and almost certainly within the next twenty.

Possible treatments:
Brain transmitters/hormones to diminish appetite or increase metabolism.
Targeted gene therapy to modify brain appetite circuit.
Targeted gene therapy to increase muscle mass and/or diminish body fat.
Encapsulated cells modified to excrete high levels of leptin and other signaling proteins.
Modified gut bacteria to produce leptin and other appetite/metabolism modifying proteins.

Fly said at October 9, 2004 7:38 AM:

Whoops…I forgot this potential treatment:
“Pacemaker” for appetite control. Electrical stimulation of nerves signaling satiety or controling appetite and metabolism.

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