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Arterial Stiffness in Middle Age Leads to Cognitive Decline

Paige Tears-Gladstone8 months ago

A new study has found that individuals in their 40s who suffer from a stiffening of their arteries may experience subtle structural damage in their brains.

About the Arterial Stiffening Study

According to reports, this study, published online in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, involved a diverse group of approximately 1,900 participants in the U.S. Framingham Heart Study who received brain MRIs and arterial tonometry.

Arterial tonometry measures the force of arterial blood flow, the carotid femoral pulse wave velocity (CFPWV) and its association with subtle injury to white and gray brain matter. The findings revealed that amongst healthy young adults higher arterial stiffness was associated with reduced white matter volume as well as decreased gray matter integrity.

This research discovered that increased CFPWV correlated with greater injury to the brain which was likely to lead into cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

What It Means

The study noted that elevated arterial stiffness is the earliest manifestation of systolic hypertension and thus these results may provide a new method of treatment for sustaining brain health. Lead author of the study Pauline Maillard, from the University of California-Davis, remarked that measures of arterial stiffness could prove a better measure of vascular health and thus should be identified, treated, and monitored through the lifespan.

He also declared that this study displayed for the first time that increasing arterial stiffness was detrimental to the brain, and that increasing stiffness and brain deterioration begin in early middle-life, earlier than had been generally believed. With age comes higher blood pressure which induces stiffening of the arteries, further increasing blood pressure in addition to increasing calcium and collagen deposits, decreases blood flow to vital organs including the brain and promotes inflammation and brain atrophy.

Researchers concluded that the study results emphasize the need for primary and secondary prevention of vascular stiffness and remodeling as a way to protect brain health early in life.

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