Blood Pressure and Stroke

Updated:May 23,2014

woman getting bp checkedWhat is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (when the heart muscle contracts) over the diastolic pressure (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood). Learn more about blood pressure readings.

What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts too much pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing small tears. Our body then kicks into injury-healing mode to repair these tears with scar tissue. But the scar tissue traps substances that make up plaque and can lead to blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries.

Several factors can increase your risk of high blood pressure, including family history, advanced age, lack of physical activity, poor diet, gender-related risk patterns, overweight and obesity, and drinking too much alcohol. Learn more about high blood pressure risk factors.

Why Manage Blood Pressure?

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms. One in three adults has high blood pressure; yet, many people don’t know they have it. So it's important to have your doctor check your blood pressure.

Blockages and blood clots mean less blood can get to our vital organs, and without blood, the tissue dies. That’s why high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and even heart failure.

More than 75 percent of Americans who have a stroke have high blood pressure.

What is the Heart/Brain Connection?

What helps your heart can help your brain, too. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can help reduce your blood pressure, lower your chances of having a stroke or heart disease and can make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.

Risk factors that can lead to heart disease and stroke, such as physical inactivity and obesity, can also contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Similar to high blood pressure, those risk factors can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the brain and leads to hardening of the arteries of the heart and brain.

How Can I Reduce My Blood Pressure?

The good news is that high blood pressure can be checked, lowered and controlled. Whether your blood pressure is high or normal (normal is less than 120 mm Hg systolic AND less than 80 mm Hg diastolic or <120/80), the following lifestyle modifications can help you live heart and brain healthy:


Related Links

High Blood Pressure Tools and Resources