Here’s How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Brain

Everyone knows high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects the heart. It’s a form of heart disease, and it can lead to serious problems, such as a heart attack and potentially death. But while hypertension puts a lot of strain on the heart, you might not realize that it can also put your brain in danger.

Older Blood Pressure measurement

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High blood pressure may lead to a stroke

When you have high blood pressure, your arteries do more work to push oxygenated blood through your body. This creates more pressure in the arteries. When the pressure of your blood against your artery walls rises, your arteries do their best to make up for it. They strengthen to push the blood through more efficiently, and that strengthening process thickens the artery walls. The thicker the walls become, the less blood can actually get passed through. Over time, the walls may become so thick that they create a blockage. If the blockage occurs near the heart, it causes a heart attack. If the blockage occurs in the brain, it causes an ischemic stroke. Hypertension increases stroke risk because of the pressure put on those artery walls. According to Harvard Health, men with high blood pressure increase their stroke risk by a whopping 220%.

Hypertension can increase your risk of developing dementia

In addition to the stroke risk, there’s a big dementia risk associated with high blood pressure. When the blood supply to the brain isn’t as strong as it should be, it means the brain isn’t getting all the oxygen it needs. Without the proper amount of oxygen, brain cells begin to die, which leads to something called vascular dementia — dementia that’s brought on by artery blockage. Once this dementia starts, it cannot be reversed.

Mild cognitive impairment can also occur due to high blood pressure. It results from the same blockage as dementia, but the difference is it isn’t a full dementia diagnosis. With mild cognitive impairment, you may notice momentary lapses in judgement or more confusion than usual. However, it doesn’t progress the same way dementia does and isn’t considered its own disease.

High blood pressure affects the brain in serious ways; stroke and dementia are two problems you don’t want to have to deal with down the road. But there is good news: With medication, a proper diet, and daily exercise, it is easy to manage your blood pressure. You may have to adapt to certain lifestyle changes, such as ditching the fast food restaurants and trading burgers in for salads, but taking on a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge once in a while. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, you may want to consult your doctor sooner rather than later about keeping it under control. For those at a high risk, blood pressure problems may start as early as your mid 20s. And once high blood pressure starts, it can’t be cured, but there are still easy ways you can manage it.

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