December 3, 2007 – A study presented at RSNA found that having hypertension, or high blood pressure, reduces blood flow in the brains of adults with Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers used arterial spin-labeled MRI, a noninvasive technique that requires no external contrast agent, which can measure blood flow in the brain, to image 68 older adults.
The patient group included 48 normal individuals, including 38 with hypertension and 10 without; 20 Alzheimer's patients, including 10 with hypertension and 10 without; and 20 adults with mild cognitive impairment, 10 with hypertension and 10 without. Mild cognitive impairment, which affects brain functions such as language, attention and reasoning, is a transition stage between normal aging deficits in the brain and greater levels of dementia.
"While hypertension is not a cause of Alzheimer's disease, our study shows that it is another hit on the brain that increases its vulnerability to the effects of the disease," said study co-author Cyrus Raji, scientist and M.D. and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh where the study was conducted.
MRI results showed that in all patient groups blood flow in the brain was substantially decreased in patients with hypertension compared to those without. Cerebral blood flow was lowest among the Alzheimer's patients with hypertension, but the normal group with hypertension showed significantly lower cerebral blood flow than the normal group without hypertension.
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