Low or High Blood Pressure May Damage Brain Cells
High and low blood pressure can present health challenges, especially for those who have heart problems. The American Heart Association indicates that less than 120/80 is a normal blood pressure for adults. The first number represents systolic pressure (the pressure of blood that moves through the arteries). And the second number represents diastolic pressure (the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats).
High blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and other complications. Low blood pressure (hypotension) can lead to weakness and dizziness; oxygen deprivation is among the more severe complications.
New research published in JAMA Neurology online suggests that when blood pressure is too high or too low, it could impact brain cells. In the study, low was considered a diastolic pressure of under 70, which was linked to an increase of brain cell death (brain atrophy). But cell death may be decreased when those with hypertension lower their blood pressure. This could suggest that although lowering blood pressure could slow the death of brain cells in those with high blood pressure, those who already have low diastolic blood pressure might want to use caution.
The study involved 663 patients who were already diagnosed with some type of cardiovascular disease. Over time, those with low diastolic blood pressure had more evidence of brain cell death. Those with hypertension experienced a reduction in brain atrophy when blood pressure was lowered. But when it began to go back up, so did brain cell death.
Brain atrophy has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it’s important to note that although the study found a connection between blood pressure and brain cell death, there is no apparent cause-and-effect. Yet there is no denying that in general, controlling blood pressure is a good thing.
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