Lowering Blood Pressure Slows Development of Brain Abnormalities

Armen Hareyan's picture

Low Blood Pressure

Lowering blood pressure can slow or stop the progression of brain abnormalities that raise the risk of dementia and stroke, according to a study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

This is the first study to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the impact of reducing blood pressure on the development of "white matter hyperintensities"(WMH) - abnormalities of white matter deep in the brain that are visible as bright areas on an MRI scan.


"These are also called 'silent infarcts' because, unlike other obstructions in the brain's blood supply, they are not followed by paralysis, trouble speaking or other stroke symptoms," said the study's senior author Christophe Tzourio, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist at the Lariboisiere hospital and director of a research unit Neuroepidemiology at INSERM, the national institute for health and medical research in Paris, France.

"People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop WMH, and a larger volume of WMH are associated with cognitive decline, an increased risk of dementia and accelerated brain aging in some hypertensive patients," he said.

WMH are also associated with gait disturbances, a higher risk of falls, symptoms resembling Parkinson's disease, and a higher risk of stroke and depression, Tzourio said.

This report is a substudy of the PROGRESS trial (Perindopril Protection Against Recurrent Stroke Study) -- a trial of blood pressure lowering (with or without hypertension) in people with cerebrovascular disease.