Late-life high blood pressure may harm the brain, study says - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Late-life high blood pressure may harm the brain, study says

(AP Photo/David Duprey). FILE - This Oct. 7, 2003 file photo shows a closeup of a human brain affected by Alzheimer's disease on display at the Museum of Neuroanatomy at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. Autopsies on nearly 1,300 older people ... (AP Photo/David Duprey). FILE - This Oct. 7, 2003 file photo shows a closeup of a human brain affected by Alzheimer's disease on display at the Museum of Neuroanatomy at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. Autopsies on nearly 1,300 older people ...

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE
AP Chief Medical Writer

Decades ago, hundreds of nuns and priests made an extraordinary decision: They agreed to donate their brains upon death to science, hoping to help solve mysteries about Alzheimer's and other diseases. Now, a study that used their gifts is giving some clues. It reveals that high blood pressure late in life might harm the brain.

Autopsies on nearly 1,300 older people, including about 640 clergy members, found more signs of damage and one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease in the brains of those with higher blood pressure than among those with pressure closer to normal, researchers reported Wednesday.

The study does not prove cause and effect, and it does not yet provide a comparison of rates of dementia or its most common form, Alzheimer's - those results will take longer to parse. But it challenges a theory that high pressure is not as harmful in old age as it is when people are younger.

"We can't be alarmist. This is preliminary data" that needs to be validated by others, said the study leader, Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "It's far too soon to make recommendations about blood pressure in older people based on this study."

The research began in 1994 and combined people from three studies of aging who agreed to donate their brains for autopsy upon their death, including the Religious Orders Study of Catholic clergy throughout the United States. All were over 65 and without known dementia at the start and were followed until they died - at an average age of 89 and after an average of eight years in the study.

Two-thirds had high blood pressure, defined as a top reading of 140 or more when the study began (it's now 130 under new guidelines adopted last fall.) Their pressures were measured once a year during the study - a strength of this work over some previous research that just relied on people to say whether they had high pressure or not.

After each participant died, researchers examined their brains for areas of dead tissue caused by lack of blood supply. These blighted areas can be tiny and cause no symptoms, so they're sometimes called evidence of "silent strokes."

About half of the study participants had one or more of these, and the risk was greater for those with higher blood pressure. For example, people with an average top reading of 147 had a 46 percent greater risk of having one or more of the bad spots than those with an average top reading of 134. People with higher bottom blood pressure readings also had a greater risk for this problem.

Researchers also found a link between higher pressure and one of the signs of Alzheimer's - tangles of a protein called tau - but not another Alzheimer's hallmark, amyloid plaques. This needs further research to understand the implications, Arvanitakis said.

"It's a pretty strong study," said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association. "Autopsy data is really powerful" and has been the gold standard for diagnosing Alzheimer's for many years, he said.

With Alzheimer's, changes in the brain occur a decade or more before symptoms do, so high blood pressure may have been doing damage well before the age when these people enrolled in the study, he said.

How might high pressure do harm?

"Lower blood pressure reduces the risk of those blood vessel blockages" that can cause a silent stroke, said another independent expert, the Mayo Clinic's Dr. David Knopman. The work shows that "treating blood pressure throughout the lifespan is important."

Knopman is a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology, whose journal, Neurology, published the study. Federal grants paid for the work.

___

Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • InternationalMore>>

  • Rescue group: Libya left migrants to die in Mediterranean

    Rescue group: Libya left migrants to die in Mediterranean

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 8:57 AM EDT2018-07-17 12:57:36 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:54 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:54:11 GMT
    (Francesco Ruta/ANSA via AP). Migrants wait to disembark from Frontex ship "Protector" at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy, in the early hours of Monday, July 16, 2018. Migrants aboard two border patrol ships have disembarked in a Sicilian port afte...(Francesco Ruta/ANSA via AP). Migrants wait to disembark from Frontex ship "Protector" at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy, in the early hours of Monday, July 16, 2018. Migrants aboard two border patrol ships have disembarked in a Sicilian port afte...
    The U.N. migration agency says the number of migrants and refugees who arrived in Spain by sea this year has overtaken the figure recorded for Italy.
    The U.N. migration agency says the number of migrants and refugees who arrived in Spain by sea this year has overtaken the figure recorded for Italy.
  • Trump corrects his quote, says misspoke on Russian meddling

    Trump corrects his quote, says misspoke on Russian meddling

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 12:20 AM EDT2018-07-17 04:20:06 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:53 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:53:57 GMT
    (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais). U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais). U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.

    Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

  • Obama delivers veiled rebuke to Trump in Mandela address

    Obama delivers veiled rebuke to Trump in Mandela address

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 5:21 AM EDT2018-07-17 09:21:54 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:53 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:53:36 GMT
    While not mentioning his successor, President Donald Trump, by name, Obama's speech in South Africa countered many of Trump's policies, rallying people to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for. (Source: Nelsonmandela.org/CNN)While not mentioning his successor, President Donald Trump, by name, Obama's speech in South Africa countered many of Trump's policies, rallying people to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for. (Source: Nelsonmandela.org/CNN)

    Obama to deliver Mandela address in likely rebuke to Trump, promoting values now under threat.

    Obama to deliver Mandela address in likely rebuke to Trump, promoting values now under threat.

  • Latest health & fitness newsLatest health & fitness newsMore>>

  • Crab meat from Venezuela tied to bacteria outbreak

    Crab meat from Venezuela tied to bacteria outbreak

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:16 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:16:22 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:35 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:35:23 GMT

    The CDC and the FDA are warning about crab meat from Venezuela making people ill.

    The CDC and the FDA are warning about crab meat from Venezuela making people ill.

  • Death rates from liver cancer surge in US

    Death rates from liver cancer surge in US

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:20 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:20:38 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:20 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:20:38 GMT

    Mortality rates for liver cancer increase 43 percent over last 16 years.

    Mortality rates for liver cancer increase 43 percent over last 16 years.

  • FDA OKs 1st drug to treat smallpox, in case of terror attack

    FDA OKs 1st drug to treat smallpox, in case of terror attack

    Friday, July 13 2018 5:39 PM EDT2018-07-13 21:39:18 GMT
    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:12 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:12:38 GMT
    (Fred Murphy/CDC via AP). This 1975 microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a cluster of smallpox viruses. On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. regulators announced the approval of the first treatment for small...(Fred Murphy/CDC via AP). This 1975 microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a cluster of smallpox viruses. On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. regulators announced the approval of the first treatment for small...
    US regulators approve 1st treatment for smallpox in case the long-gone disease is used in terror attack.
    US regulators approve 1st treatment for smallpox in case the long-gone disease is used in terror attack.
Powered by Frankly