One of the most common reasons that people visit the doctor is to make sure they’re not having a stroke or another serious neurological condition. But what if you were able to prevent these things by taking care of your blood pressure? High blood pressure can have detrimental effects on the brain, and it’s important to do all that you can to reverse this trend.
According to a recent study published in the journal, Hypertension, by Drs. Eric Larson and Christopher Bundy, high blood pressure can lead to a reduction in brain volume and cognitive function over time. In the study, Drs. Larson and Bundy used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to demonstrate that people with high blood pressure had differences in hippocampal volume compared with people with normal blood pressure, as well as reduced memory function. These results come from 431 participants who were between the ages of 24 and 82 years old, taking part in either a home monitoring program or through doctor visits at the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in California. The participants had their blood pressure measured every two weeks for an average of about seven years.
The results of the study show that the higher the blood pressure of a person, the lower their hippocampal volume. This means that people with high blood pressure had less brain area for storing memories, as well as less control over memory functions such as new learning and recall. The findings are very important because they are the first time that researchers have been able to link blood pressure to changes in brain structure over time. More research needs to be done in order to determine exactly how high blood pressure leads to reduced cognitive function as well as what can be done about it.
One of the most common causes of death is stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, which usually results in brain damage or death. High blood pressure increases your likelihood of having a stroke because it restricts blood flow through arteries and veins, specifically arteries. Sustained high blood pressure over time will restrict oxygenated blood flow to your brain, which can kill cells over time. This chronic ongoing loss of brain cells secondary to high blood pressure is certainly an undesirable outcome. High blood pressure control from an early age onward is what will prevent this process.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
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PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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