Blood pressure is one of the most important indicators of good health. It’s one of the first things the doctor will check during a check up, and it’s one of the first things you should be concerned about in your daily health maintenance. Most everyone is aware of the uneasy position this places your heart in, but very few consider the effect this can have on their brain.
Measuring Blood Pressure
There are two main parts to measuring your blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure is registered as a higher number and is recorded first and is a measurement of when your heart is pumping blood into your arteries. Your diastolic blood pressure is registered as a lower number and is a measurement of when your heart is relaxing and refilling with blood. A normal blood pressure reading would be below 120/80.
Anything above 140/90 is known as hypertension and is a high blood pressure reading. Unfortunately, this condition is incredibly common. Roughly, 74 million Americans (1 in 3 adults) has hypertension and about 54 million have prehypertension. Hypertension is responsible for one in every six deaths in American adults.
Here’s a video to help you manage your blood pressure naturally:
Blood Pressure And The Effects It Has On Your Body
Your heart acts as your body’s pump, pumping blood via your arteries throughout your entire body. The height of your blood pressure is determined by how strong a force your heart’s left ventricle, the main pumping chamber, contracts, in tandem with how wide and stiff your arteries are.
Arteriosclerosis and Atherosclerosis
Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic; the inner lining is smooth so that blood can flow freely. High blood pressure damages the cells of your arteries inner linings and results in hard and thick artery walls known as arteriosclerosis. Another result of high blood pressure is atherosclerosis which is fat cells congregating in the arteries, blocking blood flow potentially to your brain causing a stroke.
Transient Ischemic Attack
Just like the rest of your body, your brain depends on oxygen and nutrients being transported to it by the heart so it can function properly, and when that process is disrupted by complications due to high blood pressure, problems can arise.
One of such problems is called a transient ischemic attack and is often referred to as a mini-stroke. It is a brief disruption of blood supply to your brain and is often caused by atherosclerosis or blood clot. When this happens, your brain cannot get the necessary oxygen it requires and brain damage occurs.
Headaches and migraines are not actually direct results of high blood pressure, which is why not everyone with hypertension will get them. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, headaches are more closely associated with retinopathy than hypertension itself. Retinopathy is a condition of the retinas in your eye, and can be caused by hypertension (source). Thus, those whose high blood pressure has led to retinopathy will often get headaches as well; if this describes you, you should bring this up with your optometrist.
More severe but very similarly, a stroke occurs when part of your brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients causing brain cells to die. High blood pressure can cause a stroke by damaging and weakening your brain’s blood vessels. Because under the circumstances of high blood pressure, your blood vessels can narrow and blockages can form in the arteries leading to your brain causing brain damage and stroke.
Another condition that can arise due to high blood pressure is dementia or more specifically vascular dementia. And is best described as a brain disease resulting in problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision, and movement.
There are a few kinds of vascular dementia, but they all arise when damaged blood vessels (due to high blood pressure) stop bringing the necessary amount of blood to the brain and brain cells die.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is super important to your overall health as well as your brain’s capacity to think properly. So you might be wondering how does one with high blood pressure change that, don’t worry, there are some ways you can tackle the problem of high blood pressure.
Losing some weight is one of the best ways to control your high blood pressure. It only takes about ten pounds of weight loss before blood pressure improves. Exercising regularly is imperative to maintaining your blood pressure, just 30 minutes daily can help reduce your measurement.
Eating healthily is of the utmost importance. You should eat a diet that’s full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and avoid saturated fat, cholesterol, alcohol, and sodium.
Remember that taking care of your heart is also taking care of your brain, and if you want to remain in control of your health, you should take precautions against high blood pressure. Live a healthy lifestyle and check your blood pressure often.
Karger. Hypertension and the Brain: A Risk factor for more than Heart Disease http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/446082 Published: July 2016. Accessed: November 15, 2016.
BioMed Central. Causes and consequences of cerebral small vessel disease. The RUN DMC study: a prospective cohort study. Study rationale and protocol https://bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2377-11-29 Published: February 28, 2011. Accessed: November 15, 2016.
Harvard Health Publications. Blood pressure and your brain http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/blood-pressure-and-your-brain Accessed: November 15, 2016.
Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868 Accessed: November 15, 2016.
Alzheimer’s Society. What is vascular dementia? https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=161 Accessed: November 15, 2016.
Mayo Clinic. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974 Accessed: November 15, 2016.
Youtube. How To Overcome High Blood Pressure Naturally https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDYm0i5zT68 Published: May 19, 2015. Accessed: November 15, 2016.