Higher Blood Pressure May Lead to Brain Shrinkage

Higher Blood Pressure May Lead to Brain Shrinkage
4.73 (94.62%) 52 votes

Having hypertension in midlife (ages 40 through 60) is associated with elevated risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia later in life—even more so than having the so-called Alzheimer’s gene.

Discuss
Republish

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“It is clear that [hardening of the arteries inside our brain] and cognitive decline travel hand in hand,” something I’ve addressed before. “However, the independent association of [Alzheimer’s] with multiple [atherosclerotic vascular disease] risk factors suggests that cholesterol is not the sole culprit in dementia.”

One of the “most consistent finding[s]” is “elevated…levels of blood pressure” in “mid-life”, (meaning ages 40 through 60) is associated with elevated risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia later in life. In fact, even more so than having the so-called Alzheimer’s gene.

“The normal arterial tree”—all the blood vessels in the brain—”…is designed as both a conduit and cushion.” But, when the artery walls become stiffened, every time our heart pumps blood up into our brain, the pressure from the pulse can damage small vessels in our brains. This can cause what are called “microbleeds” in our brain, which are frequently found in people with high blood pressure—even if they were never diagnosed with a stroke.

These microbleeds may be “one of the important factors that cause cognitive impairments”—perhaps not surprisingly, because on autopsy, “microbleeds may be associated with [brain] tissue necrosis,” meaning brain tissue death.

And, speaking of tissue death, high blood pressure is also associated with so-called “lacunar infarcts”—from the Latin word lacuna, meaning hole. Holes in our brain that appear when little arteries get clogged in our brain, and result in the death of a little round region of the brain. Up to a quarter of the elderly have these little ministrokes, and most don’t even know it—so-called silent infarcts, but “no black holes in the brain are benign.” This is what they look like—it’s like your brain has been hole-punched.

Although silent infarcts, by definition, lack…overt stroke-like symptoms, they are associated with subtle deficits in physical and cognitive function that commonly go unnoticed.” And, they can “[double] the risk of…dementia.” That’s one of the ways high blood pressure is linked to dementia.

So much damage that “high [blood pressure] levels [can] lead to brain volume reduction,” literally a shrinkage of our brain—”specifically in [the] hippocampus,” the memory center of the brain. This helps explain how high blood pressure can be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

One can actually visualize the little arteries in the back of our eyes, using an ophthalmoscope, providing “a noninvasive window to study” the health of one’s intracranial arteries, the little vessels inside our head. The researchers found “a significant association” between arterial disease and brain shrinkage on MRI.

But, this was a cross-sectional study, just a snapshot in time; so, you can’t prove cause and effect. What you need is a prospective study, following people over time; and so, that’s what they did. Over a ten-year period, those with signs of arterial disease were twice as likely to suffer a significant loss of brain tissue volume over time.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: KlausHausmann via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Video credit: Tyler McReynolds, Teetotalin LLC.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“It is clear that [hardening of the arteries inside our brain] and cognitive decline travel hand in hand,” something I’ve addressed before. “However, the independent association of [Alzheimer’s] with multiple [atherosclerotic vascular disease] risk factors suggests that cholesterol is not the sole culprit in dementia.”

One of the “most consistent finding[s]” is “elevated…levels of blood pressure” in “mid-life”, (meaning ages 40 through 60) is associated with elevated risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia later in life. In fact, even more so than having the so-called Alzheimer’s gene.

“The normal arterial tree”—all the blood vessels in the brain—”…is designed as both a conduit and cushion.” But, when the artery walls become stiffened, every time our heart pumps blood up into our brain, the pressure from the pulse can damage small vessels in our brains. This can cause what are called “microbleeds” in our brain, which are frequently found in people with high blood pressure—even if they were never diagnosed with a stroke.

These microbleeds may be “one of the important factors that cause cognitive impairments”—perhaps not surprisingly, because on autopsy, “microbleeds may be associated with [brain] tissue necrosis,” meaning brain tissue death.

And, speaking of tissue death, high blood pressure is also associated with so-called “lacunar infarcts”—from the Latin word lacuna, meaning hole. Holes in our brain that appear when little arteries get clogged in our brain, and result in the death of a little round region of the brain. Up to a quarter of the elderly have these little ministrokes, and most don’t even know it—so-called silent infarcts, but “no black holes in the brain are benign.” This is what they look like—it’s like your brain has been hole-punched.

Although silent infarcts, by definition, lack…overt stroke-like symptoms, they are associated with subtle deficits in physical and cognitive function that commonly go unnoticed.” And, they can “[double] the risk of…dementia.” That’s one of the ways high blood pressure is linked to dementia.

So much damage that “high [blood pressure] levels [can] lead to brain volume reduction,” literally a shrinkage of our brain—”specifically in [the] hippocampus,” the memory center of the brain. This helps explain how high blood pressure can be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

One can actually visualize the little arteries in the back of our eyes, using an ophthalmoscope, providing “a noninvasive window to study” the health of one’s intracranial arteries, the little vessels inside our head. The researchers found “a significant association” between arterial disease and brain shrinkage on MRI.

But, this was a cross-sectional study, just a snapshot in time; so, you can’t prove cause and effect. What you need is a prospective study, following people over time; and so, that’s what they did. Over a ten-year period, those with signs of arterial disease were twice as likely to suffer a significant loss of brain tissue volume over time.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: KlausHausmann via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Video credit: Tyler McReynolds, Teetotalin LLC.

51 responses to “Higher Blood Pressure May Lead to Brain Shrinkage

Commenting Etiquette

The intention of the comment section under each video and blog post is to allow all members to share their stories, questions, and feedback with others in a welcoming, engaging, and respectful environment. Off-topic comments are permitted, in hopes more experienced users may be able to point them to more relevant videos that may answer their questions. Vigorous debate of science is welcome so long as participants can disagree respectfully. Advertising products or services is not permitted.

To make NutritionFacts.org a place where people feel comfortable posting without feeling attacked, we have no tolerance for ad hominem attacks or comments that are racist, misogynist, homophobic, vulgar, or otherwise inappropriate. Please help us to foster a community of mutual respect. Enforcement of these rules is done to the best of our ability on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Good information.

    Also, I haven’t been watching videos for a while – too busy for my eyes. Just relying on transcripts.

    But, I watched this one and was very pleasantly surprised. Easy to watch and very enjoyable. I certainly hope it’s possible to keep this video format.

    Again, thank you for the information.




    7



    0
    1. Even I will admit it was a little less horrible. But yet the fast motion and excess motion wear on my focus. And to be clearest-I am an old guy to some (at 50), but was a gamer BITD. I can handle fast-paced action when appropriate-like dodging missiles and launching mortars, racing cars, and flying simulators.

      I played this one once or twice maybe three times to get all the details. And I’ve never been close to hyper-tensive. I just like good info, and want to help others.




      5



      1
      1. Hi Wade, thanks for your comment!

        I am a volunteer moderator helping Dr. G answer questions on Nutritionfacts.org. I sometimes can’t take the videos, and I wanted to let you know that I have been pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of Dr. Greger’s new podcast. I LOVE IT!! Walking along in the morning, listening to Dr. G talk about wild kangaroo meat (his podcast on Paleolithic Diets was fantastic!) or another great topic.

        I find that my learning style has changed, but I remain primarily an auditory learner. All the flashy bells and whistles that connect with others are wasted on me!

        Give the podcast a try, and let me know what you think!

        Best,
        Lisa Schmidt, MS, CN
        THE Mindful Nutritionist




        2



        0
        1. I’ve yet to hear a podcast that I care for. I don’t like the un-edited, real-time aspects.

          Thanks for letting me know though, I could have been my polar opposite. You couldn’t know and maybe others will now find out. Good day!




          1



          1
  2. And thanks so much to everyone for your feedback on the video styles! The videos are recorded in batches of 26 so it takes a while for any new changes to catch up to the site, but know that your feedback is much valued and we’ll continue to improve.

    From the Good Doctor’s notes above, just in case anyone missed it-as I nearly did.

    Have a healthy weekend!




    6



    2
  3. As one whose mother had Alzheimer’s, whose mother’s only sibling had Alzheimer’s, and their mother, as well, and as one who has flirted with high blood pressure AND as one whose spouse has dementia, I paid rapt attention to this video. THANK YOU DR. GREGER! I did not request a CD for my donation, but this video was “payback” enough! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!




    7



    0
    1. Pretty doggone sure a lot of what we “wrote off” as “genetics” and inescapable consequences for lineal descendants WAS REALLY only diet and lifestyle. It’s not “out of our control”. It very much is-mostly.

      Good on you Liisa and much support in breaking the chain of unhealthiness by better food choices. Just like the ant eating the elephant, one bite at at time is the surest/safest way to reverse our years of “neglectful” eating. Cheers!




      9



      0
      1. Well, I am 70, Wade, so maybe it’s late in the game, but maybe my children might benefit–IF they will listen!!! I sent a link to them.




        4



        0
        1. Liisa: I believe that it’s never too late! If your children see even the slightest positive change in you, the chances of them listening will increase.




          6



          0
      2. Wade Patton: I totally agree. A lot of what has been written off as genetics could simply be due to bad eating habits we learned from our parents. We ‘inherited’ bad habits, not necessarily bad genes. There are all kinds of behaviors we unconsciously learn from our elders. Learning bad habits for dealing with stress could also play a role in high blood pressure. Meditation can also lower blood pressure. Or even just sitting quietly, sipping a cup of green tea while enjoying a beautiful & peaceful landscape or listening to music that makes your heart sing. My family calls that lazy or anti-social. But I’m the only one with naturally low blood pressure in my entire family.

        I’ve also thought the same thing could be said for lines and wrinkles. I’ve heard Dermatologists say that certain facial lines are genetically inherited. I think it could be because we learn bad eating habits from family members as well as unconsciously learn facial expressions from them. Stop frowning like Grandpa & maybe you won’t ‘inherit’ his frown line! My mother has it. My brothers have it. I do not. But, of course, this is all empirical. There’s no way to double-blind, randomize & placebo effect any of this in a study.




        9



        0
        1. I do remember reading of a study showing that adopted children took on the same posture and gait of parents who stood and/or walked in an unusual way, so it stands to reason that we would mimic our closest mentors in many unconscious ways.




          3



          0
  4. I no longer show the new videos in my university nutrition classes, because the students find them too hard to follow. It’s difficult to know where the information is sourced when journal titles flit by in the blink of an eye.
    The older ones continue to be a treasure trove. Thank you for your wonderful work!




    10



    2
    1. Do you know that the “Sources Cited” is a link at the top of the page for each video? You can open that for your students to refer to after the videos. :)




      4



      0
  5. OMG, I missed the Chia vs. Flax video last Friday & just watched it a few minutes ago. So I also just read that Thea resigned as Moderator. I’m so disappointed to hear that. She has a good sense of humor & was always willing & able to point people in the right direction when questions were asked. Her presence as Moderator of this comments section will be sorely missed by this WFPB person!




    11



    1
    1. Hi WFPB Nancy, I agree that Thea is missed very much in this website. A year and few months ago that I joined the website as a moderator I noticed how her dedicated time every day had a positive impact on the website. I wish her all the best and hope to be in touch with her.




      5



      1
      1. We do indeed miss Thea but we’re also very grateful for people like yourself, Darchiterd, HemoDynamic, and many more moderators/regular posters who contribute so much in helping people with questions and problems, Thank you spring03!




        4



        1
  6. The problems related to viewing and listening to your videos has gotten increasingly worse! The only way I can imagine such persistent problems is to assume no one is actually getting onto Facebook to check their work. Volume, default unplayed size (doesn’t fit screen no matter what resolution used), default resolution, default playing size (which is significantly different when it starts). Basically, it’s just a mess!!!




    4



    3
  7. Hi Dr. G: As always, I enjoy your videos but I agree whole heartedly with the above comments. I like the new format but, despite the citation provision at the top of the screen, I don’t go to it very often and so I would appreciate it if the page folding function moved a bit slower. The page folding goes past in the blink of an eye and although it is cool and impressive looking, it begs the question, “ok, we’ve got this cool thing going on but what does it do to make what we’re trying to do more understandable?” If the answer is, “I don’t know”, you’ve won the battle but lost the war. With all due respect, I think your technical staff probably fall into the trap that all the people making apps, things like MS Word and lots of other computer things make. That is, I suspect the MS Word weenie who devised the item in question asks the weenie in the next bullpen to see if they can figure out how to use the “installing text boxes and photo functions”, for example, on MS Word. However, the weenie next door knows 90% of how to do it anyway whips it off in no time and says that it’s great and how easy it will be to use by the man on the street. The problem is that the man on the street doesn’t know 5% of what the weenie next door knows about computer things (unless he’s 15 yrs old, which I’m certainly not). In my opinion, what they should do (and most likely don’t) is to ask the man on the street to come in, use their programme and see if they can figure it out from the manual (whatever format that’s in). If MS Word’s presumed method worked, why has someone made millions from writing MS Word for Dummies?

    There’s something wrong with this picture. To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is part of the message”. Thus, If the medium doesn’t help get the message across, change it!

    Granville Airton




    5



    1
  8. Hallo, I miss the oportunity of printing the transcript. In former times it was easy to do. Thank you for all tremendous informations, Dr. Greger.




    0



    1
  9. Unlike others, I get used to the new video styles. There are some of the visual aspects to the new video style that I really like such as the points in this video where the text to be highlighted is left normal and the rest of the image is dimmed. But I too would like to see less twirling motion between slides.

    But for me the much bigger issue is the greatly reduced features of the new comment management tool. The biggest feature mission is the nested hierarchy off of a single root comment. The current flat hierarchy is an absolute barrier to starting a conversation. And when new people raise a question I think a nice nested hierarchy makes it much much easier to see if anybody else has already answered their question, of if the answers already offered need to be expanded or corrected. The second most important feature missing is a single notification section to see who responded to your comment or gave it a thumbs up. I really do hope that the current native comment management tool can be upgraded to contain these features. The “participate via email” button is OK, but less than ideal. AND it is only available to the person posting the original comment, and not to those who are replying.

    OBTW, in this new system papparocket = Jim Felder.




    4



    1
    1. “biggest feature missing”! Also “, or if the answers already offered”. And this brings up another missing feature, the ability to edit a previous comment to fix stupid mistakes like this! Oh how I miss Disqus.




      3



      1
      1. I’ve been fussing about the lack of an EDIT function for a week or three now.

        don’t let up!

        No direct comment on that aspect yet. I do hope it is resolved soon. Until then–freakin’ proof it 3 or 4 times. ANOTHER reason the comment section suffers methinks, seems like work to reply with no way to EDIT post posting.

        Salud!




        1



        1
        1. For the first couple of weeks we did have an edit function with this new scheme, but it was timed and only lasted a few minutes. Where did even that go?




          0



          1
    2. @papparocket = Jim Felder

      I completely agree with you that lack of a nested dialog tree and email notification of responses toquestions/comments makes dialog all but impossible. I used to rely on the tree structure to find information important to me and to participate in those dialogs. In fact, I would comment on old questions or comments and sometimes that would restart a discussion. That’s out now.




      3



      1
    3. I agree! Especially about the nested hierarchy. Glad to see you are still around, Mr. Felder! You and Tom Goff were my favorite contributors. But I guess Tom has left us because of these changes.




      1



      1
  10. I am not registered or signed in but when I get to the comment area my name and email address are already filled in. I do not like this. Why is it happening?




    1



    1
    1. wow jj, interesting. That happened to me once, but I thought it was because I had enabled cookies. (normally I do not ) . I cleared browser history/ cookies ,went back to the page and it was no longer there. Maybe try that?




      1



      0
    2. If you’ve posted…they have your email. If they have your email they have your ID. Or they are running scripts vs your browser to get the info?

      The real issue is how secure your info is.

      Part of the recent issues might have to do with “internet cops”….wanting to “control” comments on a site. I’ve seen this long ago with Yahoo groups.

      After the attack of the 12 foot tall virgins…hard to say.




      0



      0
  11. I’ve always found the studies flying by too quickly, as seems to be most comments on here, my solution… use the pause button.

    You can pause Dr G’s videos at any point in time and have a closer look at the study on screen, then go to the ‘Sources Cited’ underneath the video and find that one you want.

    Personally i like the quick fire aspect of the videos, i can watch them really quickly get a really good over view of the topic being presented and then if i want to look deeper i can back track and use the pause function and Sources Cited page to do further research.




    1



    0
    1. hi Growing Young. I agree the pause button can be used but that , to me, points to a failing in the video. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/oxygenating-blood-with-nitrate-rich-vegetables/ Check out this video for example for comparison. Notice the title of the paper remains on view at all times. The selected text quote boxes are brought forward, text enlarged sometimes, never blocks the view of the title of the paper, and thereby eliminating a lot of unneccessary page flipping. We dont need to flip to each page of the report. Show the identifying title, and bring forward the quote.
      I do read each of the source documents also, but either we have a video worth the time to watch, or we don’t. Just my view.




      0



      0
      1. Hi Susan, yes, i see what you mean. And i have to agree with you. The old style is definitely much better and easier to pause at any point during a quote and see the title of the paper from which the quote comes.

        Another vote from me for the old style that you link to. :-D




        0



        0
    1. Hi Harriet, what i used to find with disqus was that my comments would not show up half the time. comments would be missing sometimes and appear at others and i found it impossible to follow any conversation a lot of the time. I actually like the new format. Everything comes out on my computer nested just the same but all the comments appear on the current format which never was guaranteed on disqus.

      It would certainly make it easier if everyone went to http://en.gravatar.com/ and gave themselves and avatar and you could follow things a lot easier. That’s how you get your avatar on this format.




      0



      0
  12. I also have been having problems getting the videos to play properly.
    I’ve tried playing them on my laptop and my smartphone with the same results, a video that is too big to play all in one screen, and scrolling up and down means you lose part of the video.
    So it’s not a matter of the device being the problem, it’s the format.
    I do read the transcripts so I get the important information I need but I miss the added touch of the videos.




    1



    0
    1. I click on the full screen icon, bottom and on the far right, to get the whole picture on my Chromebook. It’s easy, and I just click Escape to exit that mode.




      0



      0
  13. This may not be topic appropriate but I didn’t know where else to post this, having heard it on the news today. Emma Morano, from N Italy, died yesterday at 117, the oldest living person ever. She ate 2 raw eggs a day, ate little fruits and veggies. How would you Dr G, explain this kind of longevity?




    0



    0
    1. Hi pie, it’s been shown that a small percentage of people just have bomb proof genes, in that they can smoke and drink and eat crap and still live until 100. But these people are few and far between and are certainly an exception to any rule that governs most mere mortal human beings. One could ask how old would she have lived if she had eaten healthy?

      For the vast majority of humans to eat crap, smoke and drink alcohol is a quick route to an early grave.

      Likewise, you can find a small percentage of people who die early regardless of having the most healthy lifestyle and diet possible. There’s always the exception to the rule.

      For my own part, i certainly feel massive benefits from a wholefood vegan diet and active lifestyle and exercise, i don’t get ill at all, no flu or colds or coughs, etc., and i do believe that this will allow me to live a lot longer than i would if i didn’t follow this lifestyle and diet. Time will tell, but i certainly wouldn’t go back to eating eggs dairy and meat and get all the illnesses and sicknesses that i see in other people my age.




      0



      0
      1. Thank you Growing Young … for I too have experienced massive benefits from a WFPB diet most 80 – 90% of the time, since my lumpectomy in early 2016. But then again, 100 years ago, we didn’t have the kind of crazy soil, weather problems we have today. Ha ha,, yes, ‘bomb proof genes’ indeed !




        0



        0
    2. She had great genes. When you have genes like that, you probably cannot improve much on your longevity with diet or anything. But what she probably would have had is better quality of life had she eaten more veggies and fruits and fewer or no eggs. Eat legumes for protein, that blows away eggs. She could have been more active in her later years.




      1



      0
  14. The video makes me motion sick so i scroll the video out of few and then just scroll up when i think there is a good diagram to see etc.

    Also unable to print the reference list any more : (




    0



    0
  15. If high blood pressure leads to brain shrinkage, then what of exercise? Particularly with athlete’s some of whom spend 4 hours or so per day pushing their body to the maximum. Perhaps more relevant to the rest of us, what about HIT exercise which seems to be growing in popularity? 5x lots of 30s or so at super high intensity surely pushes the blood pressure right up, but does this cause any damage? There is supposedly an evolutionary aspect to HIT exercise (running away from predators or possibly even rival tribes a few times per week, fight or flight).




    0



    0
    1. Mike, As one of the moderators on NutritionFacts.org I wanted to comment on your questions about exercise and possiblity of brain shrinkage if exercise increases BP. I think we need to consider how exercise works and whether temporary increased BP during intense exercise translates to stable increased pressure and thus potential for brain shrinkage. Most studies show decrease in BP in individuals who so exercise regularly. . Check out https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/exercise/ To your good health through healthy eating AND exercise. Joan-NurseEducator




      0



      0
  16. Why only men are always despicable ? (video picture)
    Why men are always the scapegoat of this sick and anti-social disrespectful society?
    Why it’s the norm to stigmatize males?
    Why it’s considered moral to prefer one sex on other (females on males)
    Why it’s considered a mature or rational opinion , to view one sex as an evil, pigs, lazy, stinks, etc
    while the other sex is viewed as pure angel , just like in an old hollywood films of good characters and bad characters?
    God, i hate this world.
    Screw this!




    0



    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
[i]
[i]