We all know the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels for overall health.
But, did you know that maintaining optimal blood pressure levels for your brain is just as crucial?
Having abnormally high blood pressure or suboptimal numbers can mean the difference between healthy blood flow to your brain or hypertension-related illnesses, such as cognitive decline and stroke.
In this edition of Neurology insights, we take a look into the importance of maintaining optimal blood pressure levels, how hypertension impacts brain health, and ways to improve your numbers.
What exactly is blood pressure and what do these numbers mean?
Blood pressure, in a nutshell, is the amount of force it takes for your heart to pump blood to your arterial channels and from your venous channels, to then be distributed throughout your body.
The upper number (systolic) records the health and thickness of your left ventricle and arteries as it contracts and pumps blood out of your heart.
The lower blood pressure number (diastolic) records the pressure of your right ventricle and arteries when your heart is relaxed and refilling back with blood.
And it is ideal to have your levels just right… not too low or too high. This is a very important concept in neurology. High blood pressure can lead to strokes as well as heart attacks. Low blood pressure can lead to dizziness, imbalance, and also lead to strokes. This is especially true as we age.
Normal numbers are generally at or below 120/80 for the age ranges of teens all the way through your 30s and even 40s. However, as we get older, especially in her seventies 70s and 80s, a higher “pump pressure” is frequently necessary to avoid low blood pressure effects on the brain.
Hypertension (Stage 1) is classified at 130/80 - 139/89 and Stage 2 is at or above 140/90.
The relationship between hypertension and cognitive decline:
High blood pressure can bring a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, from chest pain to nausea, to dizziness, unsteadiness, and headaches. However, for the majority, many do not even notice a difference. This is why hypertension is also referred to as the “silent killer”.
Did you know that 1 out of every 6 deaths in the U.S is due to cardiovascular disease (i.e. hypertension)?
With high blood pressure being the most common cause of stroke, it is important to understand what is at risk. Whether an artery becomes blocked by a blood clot or a blood vessel bursts… either incidence can be very damaging and/or fatal, especially if you are older in age.
Recent studies have shown more evidence that higher blood pressure is linked to brain disease (lesions, dead tissues, plaques and tangles).
Ways to improve your numbers
I always tell my patients; having high blood pressure isn’t a death sentence, it’s a warning, and it is never too late to improve your numbers.
A decrease of 10 points alone is enough to lower your risk of stroke by 44%
And with blood pressure, the earlier you start the better. If you want to maintain a healthy brain into old age, proper and continuous oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain is important.
Dementia doesn’t happen overnight, and it is through the death and damage of brain tissue over time that leads to disintegrated nerves that can no longer communicate messages or preserve memories.
We all know there is no shortcut to good health. And for some, high blood pressure may be there result of another disease-related illness, medications or genetics.
However, we can all experience great improvement through a healthy diet that is rich in nutrition and relatively low and carbohydrates, the maintenance of a moderate exercise regime, and the commitment to decreasing stress. For some, this may need to be coupled with medication to achieve optimal results.
You only have one brain, taking the steps to protect it is one of the greatest investments you can do for your life. The first step to living well is to be well.
Here’s to your overall health, and your brain health!
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If you have any questions related to high blood pressure or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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