A new study has uncovered a possible link between elevated blood pressure and a person having brain damage or even Alzheimer's disease.
The study's author, Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis of the Rush Alzheimer's disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said, "Blood pressure changes with aging and disease, so we wanted to see what kind of impact it may have on the brain," EurekAlert reported.
In order to obtain the data needed for the study, the researchers followed 1,288 people and monitored their health until their eventual deaths.
Participants in the study, all 65 and older, were not suffering from dementia and had agreed to donate their brains for autopsy upon death at the start of the study. Among the 1,288 participants in the study were approximately 640 clergy members, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The average age at death of the participants was 89.
Blood pressure was documented on a yearly basis for the participants while they were still alive.
Upon conducting the autopsies, researchers observed that around half of the participants had dead tissue in their brain. The presence of dead tissue in the brain could be a sign that a person suffered from what is known as a "silent stroke."
Participants who had high blood pressure were at even greater risk of having dead tissue in their brains.
The results remained the same even after the researchers took into account a participant's use of drugs designed to counteract high blood pressure.
The researchers also noticed a connection between participants having high blood pressure and tangles of the protein known as tau in their brains. That's significant because tau is known as one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease.
However, they were not able to locate amyloid plaques in the brains, which is another telltale sign of the disease.
Because of that, Arvanitakis said that their findings related to Alzheimer's disease and elevated blood pressure are still tough to fully understand at this point in time. Additional research will need to be conducted in order to understand precisely what is going on.
Still, James Hendrix, the director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association, said that the researchers conducted a "pretty strong study" because of the use of autopsy data.
One expert who weighed in on the study, Dr. David Knopman of the Mayo Clinic, said that one valuable takeaway from the study is that "treating blood pressure throughout the lifespan is important."
More news regarding the study being conducted by Arvanitakis and the other researchers should be made available in the future.