People with elevated blood pressure that falls within the normal recommended range are at risk of accelerated brain ageing, according to a study by The Australian National University (ANU).
Normal blood pressure is defined by pressure below 120/80, whereas an optimal and healthier blood pressure is closer to 110/70.
The new research comes after a large international study found the number of people over 30 with high blood pressure has doubled globally.
During the study, the researchers examined more than 2,000 brain scans of 686 healthy individuals aged 44 to 76. The blood pressure of the participants was measured up to four times across a 12-year period. The brain scan and blood pressure data was used to determine a person's brain age, which is a measure of brain health. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience on October 9.
In a report posted on the university's website, Cardiologist and co-author of the study, Professor Walter Abhayaratna, said: "Compared to a person with a high blood pressure of 135/85, someone with an optimal reading of 110/70 was found to have a brain age that appears more than six months younger by the time they reach middle age."
"This thinking that one's brain becomes unhealthy because of high blood pressure later in life is not completely true. Brain ageing could begin way earlier. If we maintain optimal blood pressure, our brains will remain younger and healthier as we age," said Professor Nicolas Cherbuin, senior author and head of the ANU Center for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing.
The study findings emphasize that adults should take the opportunity to check their blood pressure at least once a year, with an aim to ensure that their target blood pressure is closer to 110/70, particularly in younger and middle age groups, he said.