The Brain Pays A High Price For High Blood Pressure

Doctors know high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. But there's another good reason to fight hypertension: It can wither your brain. That's the gist of a new study by Dr. Declan G. M. Murphy and colleagues at the National Institute on Aging.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers compared the brains of 18 hypertensive men with those of 17 normal men. As reported in the September issue of Hypertension, they discovered a startling difference. The left sides of the brains of the high-blood-pressure men were significantly smaller than those of their healthier counterparts. The reason, suggests Murphy, is that high blood pressure may reduce blood flow in certain sections of the brain, causing them to waste away. Cognitive tests administered by the researchers showed that the smaller brains were still working normally. But, says Murphy, "one would expect that eventually, that group would encounter language problems or other problems associated with the left side of the brain."

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