Brain aging, high blood pressure and obesity

Research Study found that Abnormal Changes of Brain Connections, associated with High Blood Pressure and Obesity, leads to Impairments in Executive Brain Function in Older Adults with a Memory Complaint

SUMMARY: The brain is composed of cells (gray matter) and connections (white matter). Our study evaluated 294 community-dwelling older adults in the New Orleans metropolitan area with a memory complaint. The study was designed to determine whether chronic medical conditions, like hypertension and obesity, confer an increased risk for the development of brain injury that leads to changes in brain function. The evaluation included a medical history and examination, cognitive testing, and brain imaging. There were two main results. First, increasing age was associated with a higher rate of white matter disease, especially in people with a history of hypertension and obesity. Second, white matter abnormalities in the frontal lobe of the brain were associated with significant executive (frontal lobe) dysfunction. These results support the hypothesis that white matter disease, hypertension, and obesity may play an important role in executive dysfunction with increasing age. This potential increased burden on brain pathology is likely more problematic in the southeastern United States where high blood pressure, and obesity are common.

This research study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, and is published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia journal.

TITLE: Severity of Age-Related White Matter Hyperintensity associated with Obesity, Hypertension, and Executive Dysfunction

RESEARCH TEAM: Deidre Devier, PhD; Jessica Shields, MD, PhD; Katherine Hester Smith, MD; Lynn Eckhardt RPT; Anne L. Foundas, MD


Figure 1. Lateral view of the human brain   showing the left frontal lobe in Pink

(Credit: Digital Storm via Shutterstock)

Figure 2. Cross-Section of the human brain showing brain cells (gray matter) in the outer ‘gray’ rim, and brain connections (white matter) in inner ‘blue’ area.

(Credit: Foundas Brain Lab).

Figure 3. Horizontal brain image showing white matter disease visualized as the punctate ‘white’ areas. These lesions are consistent with white matter hyperintensities seen on MRI brain scans.

(Credit: Foundas Brain Lab)