Here’s How Lowering Your Blood Pressure Can Benefit More Than Just Your Heart

About 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. That comes out to be 1 in 3 American adults. But with all the medications out there to lower blood pressure, does it really matter how much attention you pay to that part of your health? Doctors say yes, and new research shows lower blood pressure may benefit more than just your heart.

Nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

Blood pressure can have an impact on more than just your heart. | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

Lower blood pressure means a healthier heart

Many adults middle-aged and older have high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic) or less. High blood pressure, or hypertension, means the force of blood against your artery walls is too high. Hypertension often shows no symptoms, and the CDC refers to it as the silent killer. But when the force against your artery walls is too high, they can harden. Hardened arteries decreases the flow of oxygen and blood to your heart, which can lead to serious heart problems, such as heart attack or heart failure. If you keep your blood pressure at a healthy low, you prevent greater force against your artery walls, which prevents hardening. Ultimately, a lower, healthy blood pressure can keep your heart healthy for a long time.

Lower blood pressure also means your brain is healthier

Blood pressure hardens arteries in the brain, too. And when that high pressure bursts or blocks arteries to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Stroke is a serious condition because it means brain cells are no longer getting the oxygen they need to function. They die, and they can’t be revived. But keeping track of your blood pressure to keep it at a healthy number can protect your brain from suffering a stroke.

Lower blood pressure may also have a tie to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia

A July 2018 study found that those whose systolic blood pressure was lowered from a higher number down to 120 were 19% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairments that typically result in Alzheimer’s. The evidence shows that controlling your blood pressure can put you at a lower risk of developing this troubling dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and this study is the first one to show a solid correlation. However, more studies need to be done to definitively a relation between the two.

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure.

There are several easy ways to lower your blood pressure. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Ways to lower your blood pressure

Lowering your blood pressure isn’t too hard — it’s a matter of eating the right foods and staying active. A few ways to lower your blood pressure without (or with the help of) medication:

  • Exercise daily: Even just taking a morning walk is some added activity that can help you manage your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate acitivity per week to keep yourself healthy.
  • Cut back on refined sugars and carbs: White bread is not your friend. Always opt for whole wheat bread, and eat fewer refined sugars (read: Lay off on the junk food). It’s okay to indulge once in a while, but don’t make it a habit.
  • Watch your sodium: Sodium holds excess fluid in the body, which puts added strain on your heart. Try not to eat more than 2,300 milligrams per day, and look for low-sodium foods (less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving)
  • Quit smoking: This goes without saying, but smoking isn’t doing your body any favors. Quitting isn’t easy, but if you want to live a long, fulfilling life, it’s time to take the first step. Talk to your friends and your doctor about the best way for you to quit.
  • Reduce your stress: Stress is mental and emotional, but it shows up physically. By reducing your mental stress, you’re reducing the physical stress on your heart. Try meditating or doing yoga, or simply use those morning walks as a time to unwind and feel ready to take on your day. The less you stress mentally, the healthier you’ll be physically.

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