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A new study shows that having high blood pressure in early adulthood harms brain health later in life, especially in men. Men who had high blood pressure as young adults had poorer brain health than those with normal blood pressure.

Researchers performed brain scans on 427 older adults to assess their brain volume and white matter integrity. Then they compared the scans of those who had high blood pressure in early adulthood (between the ages of 30 and 40 years) with those who had normal blood pressure.

They found that those who had high blood pressure had lower brain volumes and poorer white matter integrity – an indication of impaired cognitive plasticity. The link between high blood pressure and lower brain volume was stronger in men, especially in the frontal cortex and cerebral gray matter.

These findings suggest that prolonged exposure to high blood pressure has marked effects on brain health later in life, increasing one’s risk of dementia. Exercise can have profound blood pressure-reducing effects, however. Learn more about the brain-protective effects of exercise in this clip featuring Dr. Axel Montagne.

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