Brain bleeding is common with aging, study finds

November 8, 2010

A small amount of bleeding in the brain seems to be common among older individuals, according to a UC Irvine study.

Neurologist Dr. Mark Fisher and neuropathologist Dr. Ronald Kim found that cerebral microbleeds are highly prevalent in the aging brain – and not primarily products of stroke-related injury, hypertension or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, as had been thought.

"Prior work relied on brain imaging to show cerebral microbleeds," Fisher said. "But in this study, deep regions of the brain were closely examined under a microscope, and nearly all subjects had evidence of small areas of bleeding."

Results appear online in the journal Stroke.

Fisher, Kim and colleagues at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center studied postmortem brain specimens from 33 individuals, ranging in age from 71 to 105, with no history of stroke. Cerebral microbleeds were identified in 22 cases – all occurring in capillaries, the small blood vessels of the brain.

This is a substantially higher rate of incidence than that reported in MRI studies, which have shown microbleeds in 18 percent of people between 60 and 69 and in 38 percent of those over 80.

"Drugs that interfere with platelets and blood clotting, such as aspirin, are known to be associated with microbleeds seen in brain imaging studies," Fisher said. "Our findings suggest that aspirin and other platelet medications may have a different effect on the than on younger brains."

Results from the UCI study also indicate that leakiness of blood vessels increases with age, he said, despite the fact that a specific barrier (known as the blood-brain barrier) exists to prevent leakiness.

The areas of bleeding found in the study were very small and certainly not life-threatening, Fisher said. How they might affect intellectual and neurological function is a subject for further exploration.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

Hormone that controls maturation of fat cells discovered

October 25, 2016

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a hormone that controls the first step in the maturation of fat cells. Its actions help explain how high-fat diets, stress and certain steroid medications ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.