"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Your mind is on hypertension.

High blood pressure shouldn't be only a heart problem. It may increase your risk of stroke and cognitive decline.

People mistake hypertension for a heart problem, because it will probably increase your risk of heart attack. But it will probably also affect your brain health.

Blood pressure and stroke

High blood pressure (hypertension) accelerates the means of atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty plaque inside artery partitions) in each the neck and brain. This blockage can dramatically slow blood flow, or a blood clot can suddenly form above the plaque, cutting off the provision of oxygen and nutrients to the realm of ​​the brain.

In addition, hypertension increases the chance of stroke in several ways. This makes you more more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, which allows small clots to form in the center. These can escape to the brain, where they'll block blood flow and cause a stroke.

This style of stroke affects each the medium and enormous arteries, which normally cause recognizable symptoms, akin to sudden weakness on one side of the body or face, difficulty speaking, or difficulty walking.

High blood pressure may damage the small arteries within the brain. When blood flow in one among these arteries slows an excessive amount of or stops completely, the result generally is a small stroke, often called a “silent” stroke since it's normally quick. Does not cause symptoms. Such strokes often occur in multiple parts of the brain.

Cognitive problems normally develop after a significant stroke or repeated small strokes. You can have problems learning and retaining latest information, short-term memory, and even remembering names, faces, and familiar places.

“This is why prevention is so important,” says Dr. Greenberg. “By controlling high blood pressure now, you can hopefully avoid major or minor strokes and the memory loss that often accompanies them.”

Preserving brain function

In addition to protecting against stroke, lowering hypertension may help preserve existing brain function, in accordance with a 2019 study within the journal circulation.

The study included 199 adults aged 75 and older who had a systolic blood pressure value (the highest number within the reading) of 150 mm Hg or higher, which is defined as stage 2 hypertension. pressure (see “Blood Pressure Categories”).

Their brain scans showed abnormalities within the brain's white matter, which incorporates nerve fibers that send signals from one a part of the brain to a different. Changes in white matter, which damage small blood vessels, have been linked to a predisposition to considering and memory problems.

Half of the participants got medication to lower their systolic pressure to 145 mm Hg, while the others got medication to achieve a goal of 130 mm Hg or less. Three years later, brain scans showed fewer white matter lesions in individuals who had a systolic pressure of 130 or lower than the goal of 145.

Everyone's cognitive abilities naturally decline over time. But lowering hypertension can slow the method.

A study within the May 19, 2020 issue Jama checked out 12 studies involving greater than 92,000 individuals with stage 2 hypertension. All studies tested participants' cognitive abilities, akin to concentration, decision-making, and learning latest information.

At follow-up (which lasted a median of 4 years), the chance of cognitive impairment was about 7% lower in those that didn't take blood pressure medication.

Blood pressure categories

Blood pressure category

SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number)

DIASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)


Less than 120


Less than 80


120 – 129


Less than 80

High blood pressure (hypertension) stage 1

130 – 139


80 – 89

High blood pressure (hypertension) stage 2

140 or more


90 or more

Hypertensive crisis (seek the advice of your doctor immediately)

More than 180


More than 120

Correct number

Current medical guidelines keep hypertension at 120/80 to 129/80 mm Hg and normal at lower than 120/80 mm Hg. Which range is best for shielding your brain?

“Since the definitions of normal, elevated, and high blood pressure have gradually fallen over the decades, the recommendation is moving in the direction that the lower the number, the better,” says Dr. Greenberg. “Just like the heart, the best way to protect your brain from high blood pressure is to lower it if your number is high and keep it near normal levels.”

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