Can Having High-Blood Pressure Change Your Brain?
A study at UC Davis has found uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the brain’s structure and function as early as young middle-age. Even the brains of middle-aged people who clinically would not be considered to have hypertension have evidence of silent structural brain damage.
What Research Says
The investigation found accelerated brain aging among hypertensive and pre-hypertensive individuals in their 40s, including damage to the structural integrity of the brain’s white matter and the volume of its gray matter, suggesting that vascular brain injury “develops gradually over the lifetime with discernible effects.”
The study is the first to demonstrate that there is structural damage to the brains of adults in young middle age because of high blood pressure. Structural damage to the brain’s white matter caused by high blood pressure previously has been associated with cognitive decline in older individuals.
Normal vs. Abnormal
Normal blood pressure is considered a systolic blood pressure — the top number — below 120 and a diastolic pressure — the bottom number — below 80. Pre-hypertensive blood pressure range is a top number between 120 and 139 and a bottom number between 80 and 89. Blood pressures above 140 over 90 are considered high.
Elevated blood pressure affects approximately 50 million Americans and is associated with a 62 percent risk of cerebrovascular disease, such as ischemic stroke, and a 49 percent risk of cardiovascular disease. It is the single-greatest risk factor for mortality in the United States. Earlier studies have identified associations between elevated blood pressure and a heightened risk of brain injury and atrophy leading to reduced cognitive performance and a greater likelihood of dementia, making hypertension an important, modifiable risk factor for late-life cognitive decline.
There is evidence, the study says, that lowering blood pressure among people in middle age and in the young elderly can help prevent late-life cognitive decline and dementia.
Get Your Blood Pressure Under Control
There are many ways you can get your blood under control without the use of medication:
1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline.
Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure. In general, the more weight you lose, the lower your blood pressure.
2. Exercise regularly.
Regular physical activity — at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). And it doesn’t take long to see a difference. If you haven’t been active, increasing your exercise level can lower your blood pressure within just a few weeks.
3. Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet.
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg. Try to limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. To decrease sodium in your diet, trying keeping a food journal, reading food labels, eating fewer processed foods like potato chips and frozen dinners, and lastly, just don’t add salt. Use herbs or spices, rather than salt, to add more flavor to your foods.
5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
There’s more potential harm than benefit to drinking alcohol. If you drink more than moderate amounts of it, alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points and it can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications.
6. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke.
On top of all the other dangers of smoking, the nicotine in tobacco products can raise your blood pressure by 10 mm Hg or more for up to an hour after you smoke. Smoking throughout the day means your blood pressure may remain constantly high.
7. Cut back on caffeine.
Drinking caffeinated beverages can temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure. Too much caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain, dehydrates the brain, body and skin, and fools the brain into thinking it does not need to sleep.
8. Reduce your stress.
Stress or anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure. Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress. Try taking breaks for deep-breathing exercises. Get a massage or take up yoga or meditation.
We Can Help
You CAN change your brain, and change your life. At Amen Clinics, we want to help you. Call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit here to schedule an appointment.