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The Role of Immune System Cells in Cognitive Decline due to High Blood Pressure

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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Unveiling the Mystery Behind Cognitive Decline and High Blood Pressure

The Role of Immune System Cells in Cognitive Decline due to High Blood Pressure

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A recent study supported by the National Institutes of Health has made a significant discovery, suggesting that immune system cells in the brain's protective covering may contribute to cognitive decline in individuals with chronic high blood pressure. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, have revealed new ways to possibly counteract the effects of high blood pressure on cognition. This critical study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

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The Link between Immune Cells and Cognitive Impairment

Researchers have found that abnormally activated immune cells and increased levels of interleukin-17 (IL-17) in the brain are linked to impaired brain function in a mouse model of high blood pressure. Interleukin-17 is a chemical normally released in the body to activate the immune system. In this case, an abnormally increased level of IL-17 was discovered in the cerebral spinal fluid and the brain of the mouse model.

Beyond Controlling High Blood Pressure

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The study's findings indicate that controlling high blood pressure may not be sufficient to prevent associated cognitive declines. It has uncovered a new mechanism involving increased levels of IL-17 in the brain that suppressed blood flow and induced cognitive impairment in a preclinical model of salt-sensitive high blood pressure. This suggests that solely managing high blood pressure might not be enough to protect cognitive health and that further research is needed to understand all the factors contributing to cognitive decline related to high blood pressure.

Immune Protein and Dementia

Interestingly, the study has also pointed to an immune protein called cytokine IL-17 as a potential culprit for inducing dementia. This discovery suggests new approaches to prevent damage to brain cells, potentially leading to a breakthrough in dementia prevention and treatment. As such, targeting overactive T cells in the meninges, the protective covering of the brain, could be a new treatment approach worth exploring.

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Correlation Between High Blood Pressure and Cognitive Decline

Previous research has established a correlation between hypertension in midlife and an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. However, this new study brings new insights into how hypertension can lead to cognitive impairment by revealing the role of immune cells and the protein IL-17 in this process.

Final Thoughts

While the findings of this research open up new avenues for mitigating cognitive decline associated with high blood pressure, it is crucial to continue focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent hypertension in the first place. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and regular check-ups are fundamental steps in managing blood pressure levels, preventing hypertension, and ultimately reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Balanced Diet Cognitive Decline Physical Activity High Blood Pressure Hypertension
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