The other high blood pressure brain danger besides stroke

High blood pressure and heart problems go hand in hand…

Everyone knows that. Heart attacks, heart disease, congestive heart failure, and atherosclerosis are all tied to high BP.

But it’s easy to forget that high blood pressure harms your brain too.

High blood pressure weakens and narrows the blood vessels in your brain and prevents proper blood flow. It can even cause blood vessels in your brain to rupture and leak. As a result, it’s linked to a higher stroke risk.

But that’s not all…

The connection between high blood pressure and brain diseases like dementia is pretty strong too. Did you know, for example, that women who have high blood pressure in their 40s are 73 percent more likely to develop dementia? Pretty scary.

And a new study shows why. Apparently, that high BP is doing visible damage to your brain…

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How high BP damages your brain

Researchers from Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently found that people with high blood pressure are more likely to have lesions on their brain and brain tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers followed 1,288 older people until they died. Then they took an inside peek at their brains and here’s what they saw…

  • They found that the risk of brain lesions was higher for people whose average systolic blood pressure was higher during the study. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in your blood pressure reading. It measures the pressure your beating heart applies on your blood vessels.
  • They also found that if systolic blood pressure was somewhat higher than average, the risk for brain lesions rose by 46 percent.
  • Higher than average diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in your blood pressure reading) was associated with a 28 percent greater risk of brain lesions. And you know what else? Having one or more brain lesions was the equivalent of about nine years of brain aging.
  • Higher systolic blood pressure also led to more brain tangles, a collection of protein that builds up inside brain cells and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

So basically, high blood pressure makes your brain older and puts it at risk for diseases like stroke and Alzheimer’s. Time to take care of that high BP…

Lowering BP to protect your brain

Looking for a safe and easy way to lower your blood pressure and protect your brain?

A healthy diet and plenty of exercise can improve blood pressure levels a lot. In fact, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet have both been shown in studies to lower blood pressure. And research also shows that exercising for 150 minutes a week can lower blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg.

You can also try “biohacking” your blood pressure by triggering the relaxation response. The relaxation response is a set of physical changes that happen in your body when you’re relaxed, including a decreased breathing rate and heart rate. You can trigger the relaxation response in a number of ways… by meditating, doing yoga, or getting a massage. A recent study found that you can lower your blood pressure in just eight weeks by harnessing the power of the relaxation response daily.

Certain nutrients can help too. Research shows that fish oil supplements can lower high blood pressure. And don’t forget about vitamin K2, found in green leafy vegetables (and supplements, too). Research out of Maastricht University shows that long-term use of Vitamin K2 improves arterial wall stiffening and calcification, which is a win-win for better blood pressure.

So, if you follow these tips, you could be well on your way to better blood pressure and brain health.

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Sources:

  1. Higher blood pressure may be linked to brain disease, Alzheimer’s — MedicalXpress.
  2. Beating high blood pressure with food — Harvard Medical School.
  3. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication — Mayo Clinic.
  4. Small fish oil doses enough to lower blood pressure: RCT — NutraIngredients.
  5. Vossen, L. M., Schurgers, L. J., van Varik, B. J., Kietselaer, B. L. J. H., Vermeer, C., Meeder, J. G., … Kroon, A. A. (2015). Menaquinone-7 Supplementation to Reduce Vascular Calcification in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease: Rationale and Study Protocol (VitaK-CAC Trial).Nutrients7(11), 8905–8915.
 

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.