High Blood Pressure May Age Your Brain

High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is one of the most common worldwide diseases. Hypertension is a worldwide public health issue. During the last several decades there has been extensive research, education, and a serious effort on the part of health care professionals to fight this epidemic.

Blood pressure is the pressure your blood puts on the walls of your blood vessels when your heart pumps. Your blood pressure increases with every heartbeat and drops when the heart relaxes between beats, although there is always some pressure in the arteries. Your blood pressure comes from two forces. Your heart creates one force as it pumps blood into the arteries and through the circulatory system. The other force comes from the arteries resisting the blood flow.

Your blood pressure varies from minute to minute and is affected not only by activity and rest, but also by temperature, diet, emotional state, posture, and medications.

Now studies are indicating that even slightly high blood pressure can prematurely age your brain, even if you haven’t reached 40.

Scientists at the University of California at Davis showed that having blood pressure higher than the optimal 120/80 can actually cause an aging affect on your brain, putting you at risk for memory issues and even set the stage for future dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Past research has demonstrated a link between high blood pressure and memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. However, this study appears to be the first showing that the decline may begin as early as the 30s and 40s. Researchers believe that hardening of the arteries caused by high blood pressure gradually limits blood flow to the brain, over time depriving the brain of needed oxygen.

A condition known as vascular dementia is a subtle, progressive decline in memory and cognitive function when the blood supply carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is constrained by a blocked or diseased vascular system. This can occur during a stroke. If the supply of blood is blocked for more than a few seconds, brain cells can die, causing damage to the cortex of the brain—the area associated with learning, memory, and language.

Hypertension places stress on other organs, including the heart, kidneys and eyes, causing them to deteriorate over time as well.

If your blood pressure is elevated, make lifestyle changes (lose weight, exercise, lower your salt intake) or take medication or both to lower it to below 120/80.

In most cases of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association says there is no one identifiable cause. This kind of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It is usually a combination of factors, such as:

· Weight. The greater your body mass, the more pressure there is on your artery walls. That's because more blood is produced to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues in your body.

· Activity level. Lack of physical activity tends to increase heart rate, which forces your heart to work harder with each contraction.

· Tobacco use. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can damage artery walls.

· Sodium intake. Excessive sodium in the diet can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, especially in people sensitive to sodium.

· Potassium intake. Low potassium can result in elevated sodium in cells, because the two balance one another.

· Stress. Stress can raise blood pressure.

· Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.

· Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.

· Family history. High blood pressure often runs in families.

Active treatment of these risk factors through lifestyle modifications like smoking cessation and exercise, or medication, particularly early in life, may not only prevent stroke and heart disease but also preserve cognitive function.

Take care of yourself for the ones that love you.

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